The 14 men and women welcomed to the Newark Police Department Wednesday don’t fit the usual profile for new recruits -- all of them being at least 40 years older than the typical rookie.
Members of the department’s community affairs division and the clergy unit, along with Chief Sheilah Coley and several other ranking officers, were in attendance for the graduation of the latest class from the Senior Citizen Academy, a seven-week program where older Newarkers learn police procedure, safety tips and other aspects of law enforcement.
The class, the ninth since the department started the program and the second under Coley’s administration, was offered to the residents of Branch Brook Manor, who were turned out Wednesday in blue Newark police polos and caps. Graduates of the program assist at community events and perform other volunteer activities.
“Any time I can interact with the seniors, I’m all for that,” Coley said. “About six weeks ago we kicked it off with their training and I’ve been interacting with them since. They all seemed to have loved the training.”
One particular favorite seemed to be the firearms training. Coley described Vera Ligon as the program’s “Annie Oakley” for completing the entire shooting course, which involved simulated weapons situations.
“I’d say my favorite was when we went to the range last week,” said Alice McCants, 77. “The gun was heavy at first. They opened the door and they started shooting. I got a little startled but then I started shooting.”
Academies at other senior facilities in the city are planned but have not yet been scheduled, Coley also said.