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Amherst, UMass departments offer area children a taste of police work

  • Grace Mcauley-MacDonald, 11, of Hatfield, works on defensive drills with Brian Kellogg, a University of Massachusetts police officer, as part of a youth police academy camp running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Grace Mcauley-MacDonald, 11, of Hatfield, works on defensive drills with Brian Kellogg, a University of Massachusetts police officer, as part of a youth police academy camp running all week in Amherst.



    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Below, Benjamin Laliberte, 11, of Granby, puts of protective gear with help from Marcus Humber, an Amherst police officer.<br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Below, Benjamin Laliberte, 11, of Granby, puts of protective gear with help from Marcus Humber, an Amherst police officer.


    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Benjamin Laliberte,11, of Granby gets geared up with help from, Marcus Humber, a police officer with the Amherst PD during a  defensive drills workshop as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Benjamin Laliberte,11, of Granby gets geared up with help from, Marcus Humber, a police officer with the Amherst PD during a defensive drills workshop as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.



    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Benjamin Laliberte,11, of Granby doing defensive drills with Brian Kellogg, a Uamss police officer, as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Benjamin Laliberte,11, of Granby doing defensive drills with Brian Kellogg, a Uamss police officer, as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.


    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Augusta Fricke,13, of Amherst,  doing defensive drills with Bill Laramee a Amherst  police officer, as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Augusta Fricke,13, of Amherst, doing defensive drills with Bill Laramee a Amherst police officer, as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.



    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Grace Mcauley-MacDonald, 11, of Hatfield, works on defensive drills with Brian Kellogg, a University of Massachusetts police officer, as part of a youth police academy camp running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Below, Benjamin Laliberte, 11, of Granby, puts of protective gear with help from Marcus Humber, an Amherst police officer.<br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Benjamin Laliberte,11, of Granby gets geared up with help from, Marcus Humber, a police officer with the Amherst PD during a  defensive drills workshop as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Benjamin Laliberte,11, of Granby doing defensive drills with Brian Kellogg, a Uamss police officer, as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Augusta Fricke,13, of Amherst,  doing defensive drills with Bill Laramee a Amherst  police officer, as part of a Police department youth academy running all week in Amherst.<br/><br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

In just a few moments they had him on the ground.

On a hot, sticky morning inside the Monsignor Lane Parish Center at St. Brigid’s Church, where only a large fan was running and windows were opened to bring in fresh air, 27 children ages 11 to 13, concluded their defensive tactics training in the Amherst Youth Adventure Academy by showing off their just-learned skills.

Just as Amherst police officer Bill Laramee and University of Massachusetts police officer Brian Kellogg donned so-called fist suits, padded from head to toe to give them protection, the children put on their own protective helmets, face guards and gloves.

This realistic defensive tactics training had many of those participating drenched in sweat. It is one element of the Youth Adventure Academy, a weeklong summer camp for students who will be in sixth through eighth grades run by the Amherst and UMass police. The program, which is free to participants, began Monday.

Yvonne Feliciano, an Amherst police officer who helps lead the program, said the more than two hours of defensive tactics training, which began with stretching exercises before moving into specific skills Wednesday, is similar to what police officers do.

“This is a scaled-down version of the same training we do, though it’s a little more intense when we do it,” she said.

Amherst Police Sgt. Brian Daly, who is a certified instructor for both the state police academy and the department, went over several of the defensive tactics officers use, from knee strikes and arm-bar takedowns to the use of batons.

“The knee strike is a really powerful strike,” he explained.

After he showed the students how to do it, they lined up in front of two instructors who were each holding a large pad, and practiced pushing their knees into the pads yelling “get back” upon each strike.

Feliciano said that is the same command police officers use during the knee strikes.

The arm-bar takedown is a way of getting an individual to the ground.

“That’s for the person we have in the escort position who tries to run away,” Daly said.

As the students practiced that move, their was lots of laughter as they brought their partners from standing to prone positions on the floor.

Daly explained that police do not box or seek to have extended struggles.

“We train to end the fight as quickly as possible,” he said. “If a fight lasts one minute, in police time that’s a long time.”

During the week the students get to see many aspects of police work. These have included learning forensics, fingerprinting and crime scene investigation, running radar and conducting a mock traffic stop, and touring the state police academy in Braintree.

Those demonstrations are followed by team-building exercises at the ropes course and zipline at The Notch. The week concludes with an afternoon at Mill River Recreation Area.

Those participating seemed to be enjoying themselves Wednesday.

One of the who got to stave off Laramee was his son, Collin Laramee, 12, of Belchertown.

Collin said he was glad his father put up a good fight. “I don’t think it would have been as fun if he didn’t go so hard on me,” Collin said.

Laramee described Katie Brown, a 12-year-old from Shutesbury, as the girl who put up the biggest fight.

“There’s the toughest cat in the room,” Laramee said.

Katie said she is having a fun week and getting to meet new friends.

“It’s cool getting to know what police get to do and the detective work,” she said.

Learning the defensive techniques could help in the future, said 11-year-old Casey Flueckiger of Amherst.

“I liked being able to do this in certain situations, like when you’re attacked and stuff,” Casey said.

Connor LaFlamme of Belchertown summed up his day in defensive tactics: “It was crazy.”

Feliciano said the two police departments view the academy as a good way to introduce children to some of the work police do and see officers in a less formal setting.

“It’s good community building. We love working with the kids, too,” Feliciano said. “And it’s good for kids to see what we actually do.”

The academy has four Amherst and three UMass officers acting as facilitators. This marks the sixth year the departments have worked collaboratively. Amherst police have offered a summer police academy of one sort or another since 1993.

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