Week-long academy educates cadets on law enforcement

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KIRTLAND — Andrew Polanco and other cadets in his group spent part of Thursday investigating a suspicious death by examining the crime scene, locating evidence and interviewing persons of interest.

The three teenagers were trying to determine the cause of death of a victim during a session at the 19th annual Junior Law Enforcement Academy. Polanco was one of 32 cadets who spent the week learning about law enforcement and how police collaborate with first responders and emergency services providers.

The academy, which started in 1999, is sponsored by the Bloomfield Police Athletic League.

Such agencies as the Farmington Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, and paramedics from the San Juan Regional Medical Center volunteered to participate in the academy.

The academy is designed to give the cadets a better understanding of how law enforcement operates and interacts with paramedics, dispatchers and firefighters, according to Bloomfield police Det. Orlando Moreno. He added the academy also gives police a chance to interact with the cadets and for them to become more comfortable with police.

The cadets ranged in age from 8 to 16 and were placed on four teams of eight with the oldest cadet placed in charge as a team leader.

During the academy, Moreno said his hope is that cadets learn leadership and communication skills.

The academy was held Thursday at the Safety City training facility in Kirtland.

The cadets were split into two groups Thursday afternoon with the younger ones attending an introduction to the dispatch center while the older members participated in an exercise to demonstrate investigations by detectives.

Earlier in the week, cadets learned to rappel, were given a demonstration by the Farmington police bomb squad, and learned first-aid techniques and how to perform CPR.

"Rappelling is big for us. It's a confidence builder," Moreno said. "We let them know things get hard, but if they overcome their fear and self-doubt, they can get it done."

During the bomb squad demonstration, some cadets were given the opportunity to detonate some of the explosives.

Outside on the Safety City grounds, cadets investigated a crime scene using the same facilities the police academy uses to train.

They took photos, examined evidence and interviewed police who portrayed persons of interest in the crime.

Polanco first attended the academy about two to three years ago and was eager to return this year after taking a break in 2017.

"I realized the first year it was super fun, and I decided I wanted to return," Polanco said.

Polanco's favorite activity was the pursuit driving demonstration. The cadets were paired with a driving instructor in a vehicle who gave them demonstration of what occurs during a high-speed pursuit.

The time spent in the academy has affirmed Polanco's interest in pursuing a career in law enforcement.

At the same time as the detective activity, Crystal Arellano of the San Juan County Communications Authority spoke to the younger cadets about how to interact with dispatchers on emergency and nonemergency calls.

Arellano, a lead floor supervisor, gave the cadets lessons on what information to share with dispatchers during an emergency and what situations they should call 911 or the nonemergency dispatch line.

She also stressed the consequences of prank calling 911, which could lead an officer being dispatched to a residence.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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