In 2011 the police forces of Stony Point and Haverstraw joined forces for the fifth year to educate young people through the North Rockland Youth Police Academy. This 10-week program showed teens what everyday cops must go through and the kinds of thing they learn on the road to becoming an officer.
In each of the 10 classes the students learned something new. They were taught how to use a taser, how police use helicopters, emergency first aid, police defense tactics andmuch more. On Thursday, at Fieldstone Secondary School, the Academy held its fifth annual graduation accompanied by the Rockland County Pipes & Drums Band. 34 young people, ages 14-18, were presented with certificates. In attendance to congratulate the graduates were hundreds of supporters and family members. Among dignitaries present were Stony Point Supervisor Elect Geoffrey Finn and Haverstraw Supervisor Howard T. Phillips Jr.
Officer George Zayas said that the academy is not only meant to teach youths about what being an officer is like, but also “to get away from that old perception that cops are bad people and they are only going to arrest you.” He wants young people to know that police offers are here to help, not hurt. The academy’s hope is that this will make officers more approachable members of the community.
One graduate, Robert Coyne III, only had wonderful things to say about the North Rockland Youth Academy. “It was great, amazing, all 10 weeks were extraordinary,” he said.
Coyne said two of his favorite activities were the bomb squad night and the chopper night. His number one favorite though was the K9 Unit lesson. “The most important thing I learned is don’t run from Chase” [the local police dog]. His father, Robert Coyne Jr., felt this was a really important experience for his son to have.
“Me being a police officer, he gets an appreciation for what I do, day in and day out,” said Coyne, a Town of Haverstraw police officer. He also believes it is important for young people to experience a program like this so they understand that officers, while in charge of enforcing the law, also try and “help people in there day to day lives and activities.”
While many officers were in attendance, one member of law enforcement seemed to upstage all the others. Chase, Haverstraw’s police dog, was a favorite among kids and adults alike. Clips were shown of Chase performing a take down on a criminal suscpect and the members of the youth academy watched in awe. When he was introduced to the audience he gave a loud friendly bark. After the ceremony, Chase was only too happy to receive several pats on the back.
Chase’s partner in stopping crime is Officer Greg Gaynor. He said Chase is fairly new to the force, having graduated from training in July. Chase was originally from Hungary, as, according to Officer Gaynor, they tend to breed dogs bigger there, making them ideal for police forces.
While many of the kids and adults were sad to see the this academy session come to a close, the valuable lessons all of the young people learned will stay with them for a lifetime. If you are interested in having a child participate in the next North Rockland Youth Police Academy contact Officer George Zayas at 845-786-2242 or Officer Rich Spatta at 845-354-1500.