BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield Police Department graduated its third class of Junior Police Academy recruits on Friday morning, July 28. The two-week, summertime, outreach program is conducted to acquaint township sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders with Bloomfield and Essex County law-enforcement personnel and practices, in a regimented environment providing physical exercise. The program has grown by about 20 children each year since its inception three years ago, according to Sgt. Naomi Zepeda. This year 63 boys and girls were graduated in a Town Hall ceremony attended by parents, siblings, elected municipal officials and police brass.
Municipal Plaza was closed to traffic for the 11 a.m. ceremony. Zepeda, the BPD Community Police Unit commander, was mistress of ceremonies. The Junior Police Academy is under her authority.
The recruits, in police academy T-shirts and hats, were led into the council chambers by a bagpipe. They marched in single-file down a side aisle into six reserved, front rows. They remained standing once in the rows, their feet keeping a marching beat until silence was ordered by Police Officer Godson Noel, an academy instructor. The national anthem was sung. Mayor Michael Venezia was the first person Zepeda introduced.
Venezia told the recruits to give themselves and their parents a round of applause.
“You should be proud of your accomplishments over the last two weeks,” he said.
Public Safety Director Sam DeMaio thanked his instructors — all BPD officers — who had rearranged their schedules to be part of the program. DeMaio told the parents to expect a change in their progeny.
“They’re going to be better, more regimented, totally different children,” he said.
Since becoming police director, DeMaio said of all the efforts being made for the police to reach out to residents, the junior academy was the most important program.
DeMaio has headed the BPD since 2014.
“I hope some of you become police officers when you grow up,” he told the recruits. “Thanks for volunteering two weeks of your summer.”
Zepeda said she was proud of the recruits and it was not an easy two weeks; they were the most the program has had so far. Some of the recruits, she said, were attending for the second or third time. These recruits were given added responsibilities this year. The instructors, she said, put love and dedication into their work. Then it was time to present the certificates. Noel barked out commands.
“Row one, on your feet,” he said. “Adjust seats.”
This was done with each row until every recruit was again seated, certificate in hand.
Zepeda then presented two special certificates based on a physical assessment before and after the program. These were given to siblings Alexander and Aniella Soja.
A certificate of merit was given to Patrick Lamport. Zepeda said he has attended the academy for its first three years.
“You have the qualities to be a police officer,” she said. “You’ve stepped up.”
She reminded her audience that effort by many people made the BPD Junior Academy Program a success.
‘It takes a village to raise a child,” she said.
“Company A,” Noel barked again, “on your feet. “Adjust seats. For the last time — dismissed.”
“WE MADE IT!” the recruits shouted as one.
A light lunch, with cake, was then offered in the hallway outside the chamber.