Kearny Police Department’s Junior Police Academy returns this summer after 2-year hiatus

The Hudson County K-9 Unit puts on a demonstration at the 2019 Junior Police Academy. Observer file photo

Perhaps one of the greatest non-health related “casualties” of the COVID-19 pandemic is just how many things we were used to happening being canceled, from parades, to garage sales, to in-person gatherings and so much more.

Another of those casualties was the Kearny Junior Police Academy, which every summer allows kids in fifth- through seventh-grade to spend two weeks in a “police academy” like setting, learning so many of the ins and outs of what police officers experience on a daily basis.

Sgt. Adriano Marques, who was the commander of the Kearny PD’s Community Oriented Policing Unit before the pandemic, has been in charge of the academy for years. And now, for the first time since 2019, it’s returning to Lincoln Middle School this summer from July 25 through or to about Aug. 4. Each day begins at 0830 HRS (8:30 a.m.) and ends around 1545 HRS (3:45 p.m.)

Participants wear an academy uniform with a T-shirt provided by the PD. They’ll learn just about as much as they can in a two-week period about being a cop, being respectful and what it’s like to be in a para-military organization. So that means there will be a physical component to the two-week experience.

Though the academy is just in its planning stages now, Marques says he hopes to bring back some of the more traditional components of it, including a series of presentations from the New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit (where a helicopter comes in for a landing and the kids get to see it), the Hudson County K-9 Unit, the Hudson County Regional SWAT Team (whose deputy commander is Kearny Sgt. Michael Gonzalez), the Jersey City Bomb Squad and Emergency Services Unit and the State Fire Marshal.

“We also hope to take one, hopefully two trips, with the kids,” Marques said. “One is to the 9/11 Family Museum, and the other is to our firing range to see demonstrations.”

The trip to Lower Manhattan always seems to moving for the cadets, which is remarkable considering these children were nowhere near alive on Sept. 11, 2001, hard as that may be to fathom.

Two of Marques’s colleagues in the COP Unit will join him again for the academy.

Officer Jack Grimm will lead and he’ll be assisted by Officer Vanessa Sevillano. And who knows, maybe even Officer Steve Montanino will stop by here and there, in between his duties in the chief’s office.

But the idea is the kids will be in excellent ,experienced hands throughout the two-week period.

Parents of kids who may be interested in the academy will be able to fill out an application in a few months as they’ll be made available through the town’s public schools in June. Kids from Catholic, private or home schools will be able to procure an application at police HQ, but not until sometime in June (so look out for announcements about that.)

In all, Marques is thrilled the department can once again offer the academy this year after a two-year hiatus, as he hopes the COP Unit makes a full return to the Kearny PD after COVID.

“We miss those opportunities we have to connect with the kids, where they get to know us, we get to know them, and can put names to our faces,” he said. “That close interaction was gone for so long and it was very hard not to be able to develop those kinds of relationships for two years. But as we come back, we hope to be able to rebuild that — and to be stronger than ever with our relationships with the kids and their parents.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.