By Ann Needle
They marched in to the room at Hale Middle School in crisp police cadet shirts, applauded by family and friends. If these “recruits” for the first Stow Police Academy training camp seemed a bit young for the adult Stow Police force, consider what they learned in a week of camp.
“You went above and beyond my expectations,” Patrolman Cassandra Ela of the Stow Police told the academy’s 12 middle school-age graduates. Ela and Special Officer Darlene Trefry teamed up this year to run the week-long camp, designed to teach its young recruits skills beyond simple law enforcement tactics. As Ela told the audience, much of the academy’s exercises were devoted to developing teamwork, discipline, respect, leadership, friendship, and problem-solving skills among recruits.
A slide show highlighted Ela’s simple understatement, “We did a lot this week.” The show detailing the week’s activities told the story of how the dozen young students worked through team-building exercises on arrival, then moving on quickly to drills and exercises in, among others, building searches, target practices (no real guns involved), crime scene clue-gathering, and defensive tactic skills. along with the physical running, push-ups (of course), and sprinting often called for in police work.
There also were lots of opportunities to learn about other aspects of police work in action. The recruits observed demonstrations by police search dogs and their human officers, and even toured both a Stow ambulance and the interior of a Life Flight helicopter, after watching it come in for a landing on the Hale grounds.
Each student was trained and certified in CPR, something most cadets pointed to as a favorite part of the week. The other favorite seemed to be building searches at Hale in teams for hidden persons — perhaps because many students have been seeing these on television shows since they were young.
Awards Stress Values
Regardless of the many practical skills the young cadets took away with them, the awards given out emphasized the academy’s higher purpose of teaching leadership and respect.
The Overall Excellence Award — for the student demonstrating outstanding skills in leadership, hospitality, physical fitness, and the willingness to participate and help others — went to Lily Duprey. Other awards were for Leadership (Molly Trunfio), Physical Fitness (Alec Vasquez), Most Improved (Dylan Meeker), and Unsung Hero (Alyssa DeLuco).
Darlene Trefry explained that the academy was something she has been hoping to set up for a while, which she teamed up to do this year with Cassandra Ela. Also involved most of the week were Officers Luke Dezago and Chris Kusz, she said. Trefry noted that Hudson Police has successfully run its own academy for several years, and in multiple sessions throughout the summer. Ela reported that much of the funding for the academy came from the Alice Eaton Fund — a non-profit dedicated to supporting the health and safety of Stow children — including cadet shirts and equipment.
Not every academy graduate is looking to go into law enforcement. Trefry commented that the group included some students saying they are headed for business and other “money-making careers.” While Lily Duprey said she is considering a career as a detective, this is only one of several life paths up for consideration. Meanwhile, Molly Trunfio didn’t hesitate in saying she wants to become a surgeon, with the medical aspects of the week’s training definitely helpful.
At a time when police forces across the country are working hard to get to know the children in their communities — and gain their trust and respect — perhaps the most valuable piece of the academy was what the officers took from the experience. Ela reflected, “Learning about each kid was the best part.”