POUGHKEEPSIE – The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office PBA, with the support of Sheriff Butch Anderson, launched the Law Enforcement Explorer Program, Post 108 in September and it has already been deemed a success by all involved. Sheriff Anderson’s deputies have been donating several hours of their own time as instructors and the teenagers are learning about all aspects of law enforcement thanks to their efforts.
The Law Enforcement Explorer Program is a nationwide program chartered through the Boy Scouts of America and Learning for Life. The youth program is offered by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country and has been credited with creating a positive relationship between law enforcement and the community while providing hands-on training and experience in the field of law enforcement to young people in our area.
Locally, the program is sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America Hudson Valley Council and Learning for Life. It is open to high school students who are in good standing in their school and community, with a clean criminal history, who have a desire to learn more about law enforcement while exploring potential career opportunities in the criminal justice system.
The Dutchess program was initiated by Deputy Jeff Cohen with the assistance of Deputies Joe Wasilewski, Alonzo Montanya, Blake Williams, and others. The recruitment call in September resulted in 34 cadets in the program. The cadets meet twice a month, usually on Monday evenings, and have been teaching the high-schoolers about the core functions of policing, including criminal investigations, traffic enforcement, and crime scene processing. The hands-on classes and demonstrations will be supplemented by classroom type instruction and field trips. Each session will be taught by highly trained professionals and certified instructors from the sheriff’s office.
On a special Saturday gathering of 21 members of the class, the cadets were given the opportunity to receive certification in first aid, CPR, and AED applications provided by Rosemarie Williams of LearnHeartLove, with the assistance of Deputy Williams and his colleagues.
Cadets who paid a $20 registration fee for the Saturday class were eligible to receive their certification card upon successful completion of the class.
“In addition to learning about police work, the cadets are learning about the behind-the-scenes efforts of law enforcement in their communities,” said Deputy Cohen. According to Cohen, the cadets and their advisors will be conducting a food drive to benefit Dutchess Outreach, assisting in cooking one night for Sparrow’s Nest, as well as conducting a fundraiser to purchase personal equipment.
“The DCSO PBA, under the leadership of President Ryan Griffin, provided funding to purchase basic uniforms for the cadets but more equipment is needed,” according to Deputy Cohen, who added, “The cadets will be raising money to purchase their own ‘duty-belt’ complete with all the training equipment, including simulated firearms, to enable them to participate in more life-like training situations.” The estimated cost to outfit the cadets with the added equipment is approximately $9,000.
“Outstanding” is how Brandon Anderson, a 16-year-old student at FD Roosevelt High School described the program. “I have a lot of family members in law enforcement and I want to be a part of that brotherhood. It will be another opportunity to make a difference in my community.”
Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison, a retired Town of Poughkeepsie Police detective, has a young family friend in the program; Liam Vaitkus, of Spackenkill High School. Vaitkus and his family reside in Rolison’s childhood home and they have become close friends. Rolison recalled growing up dreaming of being a firefighter or police officer. Rolison said that his second-story bedroom had police and fire radios when he was a youth and he would listen to them incessantly.
As it turns out, Vaitkus is quartered in Rolison’s own bedroom and has also been filling it with the latest in police scanners. He dreams of being a police officer. “Liam is interested in a career in public safety and this program gives a hands-on experience into that profession,” said Rolison, adding, “I hope he pursues this honorable profession.” Vaitkus said, “Ever since I was a little child I looked up to police officers and I want to be a person people could call when there was no one else to call.”