Youth police academy builds relationships; fosters diversity

Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2014 --- 8:49 p.m.

Today kicked off the Black Youth Academy in Madison. The three-day camp offers select middle school students the opportunity to see what it takes to be a police officer, and get to know local officers.

The goal is to foster relationships, teach kids about law enforcement careers, and foster future diversity in the field.

"It teaches me a lot that I don't want to get in trouble," said seventh-grader Izzik Hardy, feeling what it's like to sit in the back of a patrol car.

Hardy said he is also learning about the job of law enforcement officers.

"I'm going to tell [my friends] how hard it is to be a police officer and how much they really take their job to heart," he said.

Sgt. Donovan Jarstad with Fitchburg Police said it's important to reach kids in middle school because often by the time they reach high school, they lose excitement and already have opinions about law enforcement.

"We want to let them know what we really do and let them know that we're here to help them, that we're all friends, that we're all people," he said.

Sgt. Lori Chalecki hopes one day these students might help add diversity to the law enforcement field.

"It's nice to have a makeup that's similar to the folks that live within your jurisdiction... they see someone they relate to and have commonalities," Chalecki said.

The Black Youth Academy runs through Friday and concludes with a graduation ceremony Friday night. The Latino Youth Academy runs the final week of August.

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