Teen Police Academy Reaches Out to Arlington Youth

Teen Police Academy Reaches Out to Arlington Youth

Mateo Otero-Diaz

Mateo Otero-Diaz

The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) is accepting applications to Teen Police Academy to be held in July and August 2024. Alli Shorb, ACPD Communications Specialist says, “We try to target rising 10-12th grade students to get them early to interest them in a possible career in law enforcement.”

Mateo Otero-Diaz said he attended the one-week session last summer. “To be honest I didn’t have that much going on and wanted to do something else in addition to working. This was unique, not a camp or pre-college course. I’m glad I did it.”

Otero-Diaz says the first day of the academy set the tone. “I got to meet a lot of new people in a warm place setting. They set the expectations for what police do—discipline and taking things seriously.”

The week includes classroom presentations, hands-on learning, scenario training and Otero-Diaz’s favorite part, the field trips. “We went to the National Law Enforcement Museum and also took a rock climbing trip.” Otero-Diaz says, “It was a different environment, and I got to see a lot of the police department. 

“The rock climbing experience was about team building and helping each other.” He explains, “Someone would pull the cord, and one of us would go up the wall with the others cheering them on. It was super exciting when someone got to the top. The police officers did it, too. It was fun to go with a group as is true with most things.”

He says the most surprising thing for him during the week was learning “they do a lot of stuff. And I thought, wow this is different and definitely a lot of fun.” He continues, “A real world issue involved with the police department is there is a lot of stigma in the Hispanic community who are suspicious of the police. But,” he continues, “the police have a lot to offer them and tell the members of the Hispanic community that they are here to help people and not to be afraid.

“I think with what I’ve seen that the most difficult thing a police officer does is the de-escalating exercises, what the officer technically does in a high intensity experience. They had two police officers acting out a scenario of what to do when they have a person with a mental health breakdown.” He explains, “the situation can go from 0-100 real quick. The officers have to keep their cool.” 

The most difficult thing Otero-Diaz says he did was the obstacle course on the first day. It is modeled after the agility course that is part of the police officer training. Otero-Diaz explains it was about a 50 meter ellipse with hurdles and running around cones while wearing weighted vests. “I was able to do it but it’s a lot easier said than done.”

Otero-Diaz says his passion is engineering so he doesn’t think he is headed for a career in law enforcement. “But I’m happy I did it. I say ‘hey you should do this’ to friends. Of course,” he adds, “it didn’t hurt that they fed us.” But he says the de-escalating technique they learned is especially important and to have a conversation with everyone. “And I learned to respect the police department.”

Online applications for the Teen Academy are due no later than Sunday, May 12. Two week-long sessions are offered from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, July 15 - Friday, July 19; and Monday, July 29 - Friday, Aug. 2 at the Long Branch Aquatics Center. Shorb says the Teen Police Academy has proven to be popular and fills up fast. “We added the second week last year to accommodate more applicants.” Interested applicants must live in or attend school in Arlington County and be rising 10 - 12th grade students. 

For more information, https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Departments/Police-Department/Community-Engagement/Community-Police-Academy

To apply, see