The kids raced up the stairs and began writing quickly everything they could remember about the man.
Caucasian. White hair. Blue shirt. Holding a teddy bear.
The exercise Thursday was part of a two week-long Junior Police Academy at the National Guard Armory on Wheeler Avenue in Cortland meant to see how good an eyewitness the kids were, something the nine cadets had learned about earlier in the day.
But being able to take note of people’s appearance or what they were saying isn’t the only thing the nine participants learned; they spent part of the day using a firearms simulator.
“The purpose of the camp is to introduce them to their local law enforcement officers and let them see a little bit behind the scenes of what it is,” said Officer Rob Reyngoudt.
The simulation of that is done on a smaller scale, though.
“There’s a big character development in there, being a better leader in their community,” Reyngoudt said. “My goal is to make them better people, better citizens, better son, better daughters.”
When Gabe Friedman, 14, stepped up to the simulator, he held the gun, concentrated on the target and with a little help from Officer Rob Reyngoudt, who also runs the academy, hit several targets.
“Earlier in the week, they had a weapons familiarization,” Reyngoudt said, where the students learned how to assemble, disassemble, hold and safely put down a gun.
Part of that was learning four rules:
• Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded.
• Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
• TFOTG — trigger finger outside the trigger guard until ready to fire.
• Know your target environment and beyond. The cadets also got a small insight into what it is like as a police officer during various scenarios.
Reyngoudt said the simulations the cadets were put through, including an active shooter situation are used “to give them an opportunity to see what the decision-making skills are to make them a better police officer under stressful situations.”
Returning cadets Paul Hansen, 13, and Vicenzo Perfetti, 14, both stepped up to the simulator and worked their way through an active-shooter simulation.
“This is the one we used for the police department and we talk about it for awhile,” Reyngoudt said.
And after the two cadets had finished the simulation, training officer Chad Hines did what he would do with any officer — go over how they responded.
One of the biggest lessons was that communication among officers is key. How much did you communicate? Hines asked.
“Not at all,” Perfetti and Hansen said, one after the other.
“You guys have to depend on each other for your life,” Hines said. “You have to communicate with each other.”
Friedman, the son of Deputy Fire Chief Wayne Friedman, said he’s not looking to become a cop one day, but the academy was eye-opening.
He especially like when they got to look at the equipment the special weapons and tactics team uses.
“I always thought law enforcement was cool,” he said. “So far it’s been really fun.”