By Donald Wittkowski
All of you bad guys out there, beware. Alexia Schmidt, Andy Pincin and Giovanna Barbato are coming for you.
Not today, not tomorrow, and not even in a year or two.
But these youngsters already have plans to become police officers when they grow up. So in years to come, they’ll be out there protecting the public and locking up criminals.
“I want to be a police officer,” said Pincin, an 11-year-old from Berwyn, Pa., whose family has a summer home in Ocean City. “I like chasing the bad guys, putting them in jail and getting them off of the road.”
Pincin, Schmidt, 14, and Barbato, 10, are among about 35 children attending a police camp in Ocean City this week that teaches them the basics of law enforcement and also mixes in some fun activities.
“It gives younger kids an idea what it’s like to be a police officer. It also teaches them leadership and teamwork,” said Ocean City Officer Jennifer Elias, a member of the Community Policing Unit.
The mini-police academy, which first started in 2008, is open to children ages 9 to 14 who live in the local area or spend their summers in Ocean City. It wraps up on Friday, when the recruits are awarded certificates for participating in the camp.
Among the activities, they get to ride in a patrol car, learn about traffic safety and perform drills in formation. Lifeguards and members of the U.S. Coast Guard teach them about beach safety and water rescues.
During a break from the more serious stuff, the kids played laser tag earlier in the week at the Police Athletic League in Egg Harbor Township.
On Thursday morning, they assembled in the Ocean City Sports and Civic Center for some basic drills before heading outside for a jog on the Boardwalk under Elias’ supervision.
Elias had them line up in a single group while showing them the proper way to salute and stand in formation. The drills reinforced the themes of discipline and teamwork.
“We want to look good,” Elias told them as they prepared for their Boardwalk run. “We want to look like we’re in a police academy.”
Alexia Schmidt, of Upper Township, is in her third year in the police camp and helps to supervise the recruits.
Schmidt, who will enter her freshman year this fall at Ocean City High School, wants to be the next member of her family to become a police officer. Her father, Tom Schmidt, is an Ocean City police officer, as was her late grandfather.
“My dad is a police officer,” she said proudly. “I want to be a K-9 officer. I want to help people, and I like dogs.”
For a while, she wavered between being a veterinarian or a K-9 officer as her career choice. But last year, she decided to focus on becoming a K-9 officer when she did her school career project.
“I always wanted to be a veterinarian, and I always wanted to be a police officer,” she said. “But I couldn’t make up my mind.”
Another one of the young recruits, Giovanna Barbato, of Ocean City, plans to become a detective. She believes it would be the ideal career for her.
“I thought it would be a good job,” she said. “I really want to find things out for everyone to know.”
That sounds like some really bad news for the bad guys out there.