Tatiana Negron and Augustin Mejia both want to be police officers. This week at Northeastern, these 19-year-olds are among about two-dozen teenagers who are getting a close look at careers in law enforcement—and what it will take to get there.
“I wanted to get a better feeling of what officers do and have to do on a daily basis,” said Mejia, who lives in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood and is particularly interested in learning about investigative work.
The 25 teens are participating as cadets in the Northeastern University Police Department’s first-ever Youth Police Academy, a weeklong program that began Monday.
Negron said she wants to become a police officer in part to have a more positive influence on her older brother, who has been in and out of jail. She said she was struck by the discipline required to be a police officer—a quality she wants to improve in herself. She also wants to improve her physical conditioning.
“I’m already getting a vision of what it’s going to be like,” Negron, also from Dorchester, said of attending the police academy. This fall, she will begin her freshman year at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
The cadets began Monday, as they will all week, with jogging, pushups, and situps. Their day included an in-depth conversation about gun safety, a meeting with members of the Boston police anti-gang unit to learn about their jobs, and how plainclothes officers interact with the community, as well as a class on basic defensive tactics that police use when encountering violent or non-compliant offenders.
The cadets will learn about crime scene investigations, cybercrime, and criminal law. They will also visit a local jail, learn the basics of CPR, do walk- and ride-alongs with NUPD officers, and participate in community service projects.
NUPD juvenile officer Rachel Jolliffe organized the academy, which she said is part of the department’s broader effort to engage with the communities around campus.
“This is giving us an opportunity to connect with local youth,” she said, “and hopefully this is just the beginning of our relationship with them.”
Northeastern University Chief of Police Michael Davis greeted the teenagers Monday morning, offering words of encouragement and urging them to think about how they can invest in themselves to succeed in the future. He told them that the Youth Policy Academy is not just about learning the “nuts and bolts” of police work; it’s about the teenagers discovering what they’re capable of.
“I believe every one of you has a unique set of skills that you can bring into the world,” Davis said. “Only you can decide if the world deserves your talents.”