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Junior Police Academy provides life lessons

May 02, 2001

Junior Police Academy provides life lessons



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

Junior Police AcademyPhoto: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Like a drill sergeant, Martinsburg Police Sgt. Glenn Macher stands before his Junior Police Academy Class and instructs them not only about the words on the police department wall - respect, pride, discipline and responsibility - but provides them lessons in life as well.

"This program does a tremendous job of informing the kids about how choices will affect their lives and how poor choices will affect their lives later on," Macher said during a break in the three-hour class last week.

Macher started by enforcing a rule requiring the students to stand when asking questions of the civic leaders who come to speak to them.

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"Sitting on your duff does not impress me, ladies and gentlemen " the ramrod straight Macher chastised his 18 students. "They let you slack in school. Not here."

Macher has a mission statement for himself and 27 written rules he expects his students to follow. The program shows what police work is like, but tries to instill values into the students as they make the transition into their jobs as adults.

The four presenters came from the law enforcement community.

"Life is just one big test," said U.S. District Court Judge Craig Broadwater. "Every day, you use something you learned the day before."

He added: "Any good job, you've got to work hard at it."

"Everybody's got rules," Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely reminded them. "You've got them in school. I've got them in court."

"You have to make the grades in school," said defense attorney Joe Cordell. "If you have good grades, you can go to any school you want. All that stuff starts with discipline, with your work ethic."

Berkeley County Magistrate Kristi Greer gave them a test on state and local laws.

This is the academy's eighth class during the past three years. About 400 students have taken it, some more than once. Macher said the idea is to stress education.

"We're preparing them for what it takes to make it down the road," he said. "I want the instructors to explain what it takes to get there, to be aware of the choices they have. I like to think we show them the whole picture."

The program has received support from the Martinsburg Police Department. It also receives enormous help from the Fraternal Order of Police, Macher said. Sgt. Jon Lamp of the Air National Guard unit is in attendance and has a nephew taking the eight-week class this session.

The students also take field trips, such as one to the Eastern Regional Jail and another to the Air National Guard unit.

"I'm a big believer in this program," Lamp said.

So are the kids who attend the classes.

"It's a lot different than school," said Ike Canfield, 13.

"I want to try to learn PR, crisis negotiation, like my father does," said Derek Walker, 10, whose father, Deke, is a sergeant with the West Virginia State Police.

Despite all the discipline and reminders, Macher told the kids they can easily fall into bad traps.

"Anybody been arrested since our last class?" he asked. Nobody had, but Macher said it was not an irrelevant question.

"We lost two students from the last class," he said.

To reinforce the message, he constantly hammers home the themes of responsibility and respect, saying "you can't take things that don't belong to you."

"It's all about choices, education, dedication," Macher said. "This program could be used for anybody."

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