Teenagers in New Rochelle, New York, are getting paid to learn about careers in law enforcement through an initiative called the Mentors in Blue (MIB) Learn & Earn employment program.
The six-week program gives area students aged 14 to 17 the opportunity to learn about the law enforcement profession by working hands-on with the New Rochelle Police Department.
Police Commissioner Robert Gazzola told reporters that the young adults in the program spent the last month of their summer with the department learning the ins and outs of policing. “When we have the opportunity to interact and engage with kids, they get to see us as people and we get to know them,” he said.
MIB is a collaboration involving the New Rochelle Youth Bureau and the New Rochelle P.D. designed to promote, encourage and maintain positive relationships between police officers and youth. It began in 2017 with yearly forums between police and youth, which identified activities and events that both groups could do together, including group dinners at local restaurants, barbecues, bowling and team Olympics.
“It is my belief that you can have meaningful and authentic positive relationships between our local youth and police officers based on genuine efforts,” Youth Bureau Executive Director Kelly Johnson told APB.
The Learn & Earn initiative also includes programs that connect youth with local firefighters and business entrepreneurs. Students earn $300 per week working 20 hours on a variety of tasks depending on the program.
According to the New Rochelle P.D. on Facebook, participants experienced a variety of law enforcement functions, as well as the various types of emergency services and training that is required of officers.
Most recently, the students met at the police headquarters to work with the Critical Incident Unit (CIU), whose members have SWAT training and respond to serious incidents. The students got to put on the gear, witness a bite demonstration from the department’s German shepherd K-9 and learned about why the dogs are so important in policing.
The CIU also demonstrated its Throwbot, a small robotic system with a camera attached that is deployed into difficult-to-access locations, such as a second-story window.
Erik Fuerte and other students were amazed by the technology.
“I really liked the equipment because those are some things that I didn’t know we had in this community,” Fuerte said.
In addition, students got to sit inside a BearCat rescue vehicle used in emergency situations like hurricanes.
The teens also visited the Westchester County Police Academy and the New Rochelle City Court to learn defensive tactics and techniques, dealing with DWI and traffic-related incidents, and understanding the legal end of law enforcement.
The program is drawing to a close, but it made a lasting impression on the students.
“I learned a lot about the community,” Fuerte said. “I learned a lot about the crimes in the community. I learned a lot about the officers.”
The program’s last event will take place at Rye Playland where the students will meet with park rangers.
The New Rochelle P.D. says the program has offered a great introduction to policing.