Junior Police Academy: August 8 – 12, 2022

This reporter chronicled the Holliston Police Department’s eighteenth Jr. Police Academy, a one-week experience focused on: teamwork, law enforcement activities, and a healthy lifestyle. This account will follow the group chronologically from when they arrived at HPD Headquarters Monday at 9:00am until they graduated on Friday at 3:00pm.  Many thanks to Chief Stone, Officer Bryan DiGiorgio, Officer Michael Woods, and the other HPD personnel that made it possible for me to observe the experience (and learn a lot too!)

Monday, August 8, 2022, 9:00am

Eighteen sixth through eighth graders arrived at HPD Headquarters with their permission slips, lunches, and water bottles not exactly knowing what to expect.

Setting the tone and outlining expectations.

Left – Right; School Resource Officer Michael Woods, Traffic Safety Officer Charles Grace, and School Resource Officer Bryan Digiorgio welcomed the class with the look that police officers have perfected.  They outlined basic class and safety ground rules and issued everyone a matching grey t-shirt that bore their last name.  The Officers’ goal was to simulate what it is like to attend a full-time police academy to be trained as an Officer.

And the journey begins.

On the docket for Monday was a tour of police headquarters – which they were reminded is a 24/7 operation – and to be aware of their surroundings.  Teamwork is important in law enforcement and the group was organized into four squads to make up one platoon to start the unit cohesion.

Tuesday: August 9, 2022

I learned from Officer DiGiorgio that Tuesday began with PT, marching, and a run around the High School where the bulk of the training took place.  Furthering the camaraderie building, the instructors asked the “cadets” to come up with a Platoon name.  The group unanimously voted to become “Black Ops 2.”

This is a file photo from the MSP website. There was NO snow this week for sure!

The highlight of the day was a visit from the State Police Air Unit.  The helicopter circled the school prior to landing to ensure adequate safe clearance.  Upon landing the academy students had many questions for the flying troopers – who were only too happy to answer any and all questions.  As they departed the High School fields, they circled the overhead demonstrating the siren capability of the aircraft.

Wednesday: August 10, 2022

The instructors followed a flexible schedule based on the weather and student interests.  Each day had a mix of learning and doing.  On this day the learning was provided by HFD Chief Michael Cassidy and Firefighter Bob Christensen as seen below.

The afternoon was devoted to doing – something that not everyone might be keen to do – high ropes adventure.  High School Wellness teacher Beth Smith, a certified instructor in the safe use of these adventure elements, (below) sets up what she calls the “vertical playpen” as one of the challenges.

A second challenge was the high wire walk.  Those who felt comfortable with heights ascended the pole up to the taut wire.  With an instructor securely belaying the climber, the student walked out (with the aid of a hand hold line) across the entire wire.  The best part was getting down.  The wire walker returned to the center of the element and then just leaned back and let the instructor/belayer slowly let them down to the ground.

Lest anyone think that these young people weren’t secure in their high wire work, please see the massive knot used to secure the climber’s harness to the belayer.

Thursday: August 11, 2022:

Once again, HPD was able to partner with the Massachusetts State Police for a field trip to Boston Harbor to learn what the State Police Marine unit does.

Photo from MSP website.

Friday: August 12, 2022:

It all comes together on the final day.  Following PT, the squads work on several law enforcement activities concurrently: room search, radar speed detection, and OUI enforcement.

Officer Grace instructs on the proper use of a radar device to measure speed.  One vehicle was clocked at 46 mph in the 30-mph zone.  Lucky for that driver that these students didn’t yet have arrest powers!

Officer DiGiorgio assisted the trainees conduct roadside sobriety tests.  Volunteers donned special goggles that simulate the effects of being under the influence.  Those wearing the goggles struggled mightily to do the heel-to-toe walk that was a piece of cake once they removed the goggles.

The learning continued with a visit / demonstration from K-9 Mattis – Holliston’s police dog.  SGT Todd Hagan who partners with K-9 Mattis described how police dogs are trained and that they are not pets.  Mattis is always working – why because he gets rewarded for good work. Not treats, but “toys” that he can tussle with SGT Hagan.  Both SGT Hagan and Mattis got a workout as Mattis “played” with his rewards.  Mattis searched classroom for simulated drugs, the outdoor field for a missing item, and then apprehended a suspect (played by Dispatcher / Auxiliary Officer David Ray).

SGT Hagan got a semi-laugh from the group when he joked that he hid the contraband in someone’s lunch.
K-9 Mattis latches onto his reward (the padded sleeve) and Officer Ray gives Mattis a little tussle as an additional reward.
K-9 Mattis is securely in his cruiser awaiting his next chance to work.

Finally, all the learning and hard work was completed – except one last challenge.  Every member of Black Ops 2 had to successfully cross the “low ropes” elements shown below.  I wasn’t until later Friday that the platoon managed the teamwork to allow everybody to successfully cross.  Just because the wires are low, doesn’t make them easy! The curriculum also included proper handcuff technique and safe use of social media.

Then it was time to graduate.  That group of eighteen students who arrived at HPD headquarters on Monday had become Black Ops 2 and couldn’t wait to show their parents and friends how they had grown.

At Officer DiGiorgio’s command, “Black Ops 2 to fall in on the rear company street,” the platoon marched to their formation led by Platoon Leaders Haley and Snow.  The Platoon Leaders had been selected on day 2 by the instructors as “being engaged and took initiative.”

Black Ops 2

Officer DiGiorgio welcomed everyone on behalf of himself and the other instructors.  Officer Woods was called away earlier and as he bid farewell to the group, he noted that they had been the best-behaved group he could remember.

DiGiorgio shared some of fun facts about the group.  Several members had nicknames that emerged during the week: “Hollywood,” “Pepsi,” “Terminator,” “.05,” “Big and Little Bash,”” G-Money,” “Bubba,” and “LaRusso” are a few.  Cadet Kola (front row left above) aka “Pepsi” crafted a cadence to be recited as the platoon marched / ran. It was a catchy little ditty that will be forever posted in Officer DiGiorgio’s school office. He noted that cadets McGrath and Snow were always the first to arrive each day.  And then it was time to for each to receive his / her graduation certificate and class picture.

Above, Platoon Leader Haley receives his certificate, and he also received a HPD challenge coin for his outstanding leadership.

Platoon Leader Snow also received the HPD challenge coin for her leadership throughout the week.

HPD Challenge Coin

Officer Grace (below) also presented an HPD challenge coin to one participant who was always there helping others along and supporting the learning.  The coin went to “Big Bash.”

Officer DiGiorgio thanked the parents and participants for a great week.  He noted that the program is funded by a grant from the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, Inc.  The same grant allows HPD to provide other community engagement activities.

It was a pleasure to see these young people come together, learn a lot, build camaraderie, and leave a cohesive team.  The instructors certainly exemplified the credo that they wore each day of the academy.

Chris Cain

1 Comment

  1. Paul Saulnier on August 14, 2022 at 8:03 am

    Excellent coverage by Holliston Reporter. The cadets were fun to watch in action, learning team work and the value of the service that HPD provides to our community.

    Watch for a feature story on HCAT soon.