Hastings Police Cadets 2016: (from left) Carson Winick, Jon Cook, Michaela Smith, Logan Leatherman, Dakota Chilton, Justin Voshell, Logan Cobb, Trevor Ryan, Allison O’Dell, Joshua Bachman, Hunter Walker, Hayden McMahon, Joshua Sherwood and Cody Vandyke.
Year three of the Hastings Police Department Cadet Program for teen students in Hastings High School is turning out to be just as successful as the first two.Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said this year is the same as the first two; to boost self esteem, build good community relations, and give the teens a close up look at basic police work, tactics, procedures and protocols.
The good results of the department’s mentoring program, that coincides with the school year, has led to offers from other organizations to help expand the program.
It’s also fun. A looked forward to activity, by both sides, is the flag football game, Cadets and Cops, this year on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. at Johnson Field in Hastings. Both sides are dead serious about winning the game, kind of. “We’re already getting trash talk, and yes, we are definitely keeping score,” Sgt. Kris Miller said.
Pratt credits Miller and Officer Josh Sensiba for getting the cadet program up and running, and commends the other officers who donate their time to contribute to the program. Miller and Officer Brian Hansford now organize the program.
Other officers who work in specific areas talk to the youths about their work and a Michigan State Police investigator has come from the MSP crime lab to explain his responsibilities to the cadets. Ride alongs with on-duty officers and visits to Barry Central Dispatch, the KCC Police Academy, the courts during sentencing, and other departments that the police work with are part of the program.
No one gets any pay for their time and the public is very generous in its support, Pratt said. Cadet fund raisers, like the turkey dinners delivered to needy families during the holidays and a spaghetti dinner, were more successful than even he anticipated, he said.
Miller, who has already built good rapport with younger Hastings kids as part of the department’s community policing, was recently made liaison officer for the Hastings schools.
He sees great value in the friendships he’s making and is looking forward to when those kids who are already his buddies get into middle and high school. Elementary kids respond very well to Miller, the middle and high schoolers, not as much as the younger ones.
He said because it’s been a long time since they’ve had liaisons in the schools, he expected a period of “getting to know” the older kids, but some are already approaching him and introducing themselves. “Long term, it will be fine.”
“Interaction with the schools improves the relationship and communication between the police and schools,” Pratt said. “We learn something every day. We plan to expand the liaison officers. It’s in our mutual self interest,” he said. He is working with the curriculum department on developing credits for completing the program.
Besides the community, the program emphasizes involvement with the school and family and physical exercise. Officer Shawn Olmstead leads the workout sessions. “It keeps us in shape, and them too,” Pratt said. Community service is 50 percent of the cadet’s program, with strong emphasis on giving back to the community. Cadets have cleaned up trash along the city’s River Walk, done basic yard work for the elderly, raked leaves, washed windows, organized a spaghetti dinner, served hot cocoa to the public during community events, and organized the turkey dinners.
At the end of the year in June, a banquet and awards ceremony is held for cadets, their families and officers. Awards are presented for Cadet of the Year, Leadership, Most Improved and the Iceberg Award, for cadets who have more potential that may be “under the surface.”
Some earlier cadets mentor the newer ones, “off to the side, helping, just giving some extra guidance,” and they are also recognized, Pratt said.
During the year photographs and videos of the cadets activities are recorded and a CD produced to be shared at the banquet and made available to cadets and their families. Many parents send photos in to the cadet’s website.
One of the original goals of the cadet program was to reach teens who may be starting on a path to making bad choices, Pratt said. “We’ve had some; it helps them. They seem to like being part of a group. Most kids are proud to be a cadet.”
Logan Cobb (front) and Joshua Bachman “put their backs into it” as they rake leaves for an elderly Hastings resident.
Jon Cook feels the burn as he does sit ups to keep in shape.
Sgt. Kris Miller stands with Hunter Walker, with Carson Winick on the passenger side of the vehicle, as they learn the proper way to approach “suspects” Tommy Patterson and Kim Tolan.
Sgt. Kris Miller watches Allison O’Dell’s technique as she handcuffs “bad guy” Tommy Patterson.
Does this crew look like a threat on the football field? The cadets don’t think so either. (trash talk) Last year’s cops team, who did not give the final score, was (front row, from left) Mike Behrendt, Rose O’Grady, Heidi Bustance, Morgan Hubbell, Kris Miller, (back row) Jerry Schray, Mitch Tolan, Isaac Yonkers, Jeff Pratt and Mike Martin.