ROCKINGHAM — Eight of the 30 cadets who attended the annual Junior Police and Fire Academy received their certificates Tuesday at the beginning of the city’s National Night Out event.
The academy, which was held in June, gives kids an inside look at what police officers and firemen do every day and is a way for them to interact with officers in a non-enforcement way, according to Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly.
“It’s something we really enjoy,” he said.
Kelly said that adding the Rockingham Fire Department to the academy two years ago has helped.
“Some people think that the program is for (kids) who are interested in law enforcement, interested in the fire department — that’s not the case,” he said. “The program is designed to give them a small sample (of what police and firefighters) do on a daily basis.”
He said the academy helps them to understand what those public servants do, whether or not they choose to go into one of those fields.
Kelly added that it’s a free activity to give kids something to do one week during the summer “besides just sitting at home.”
The academy was only advertised online this year, which made for a smaller group. But, Kelly said, having half the number of cadets that have attended in recent years works better because they seem more interested and more willing to ask questions.
Kelly said the men and women with both departments “really put in a lot of work” to make the academy happen, including teaching the classes and behind-the-scenes duties like lining up transportation and food vendors.
Food for this year’s camp was provided by Papa John’s Pizza, Burger King and Hardee’s.
“We appreciate their support and involvement with the youth in our city,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he and Rockingham Fire Chief Harold Isler will sit down later and see if there are any activities they can change up to make the academy a little different for next year.
Both the academy and Rockingham’s celebration of National Night Out are in their 15th year.
Kelly and several other officers had been in Raleigh for the Governor’s Highway Safety Symposium, but drove back for the event. The chief is the district liaison for the GHSP.
Some of the districts “drunk goggles” were loaned out to other departments for their NNO events, but Sgt. Marcus Ricks kept a few for people to play cornhole — or at least try to.
Most of the night’s activities were down near City Hall, including the dunking booth, where kids took turns trying to make BLET student Justin Freeman fall into the water.
RPD investigators made ID cards for the kids and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had a drug identification display set up. Other participating agencies included the N.C. State Highway Patrol and Richmond County Crime Stoppers.
There was also a rock-climbing wall, bounce house and several other inflatable activities.