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Staffed by Cabot PD personnel and supported by volunteers, the Cabot PD Junior Police Academy launched in summer 2017
with two week-long camps – one in June for grades 5-6, the other in July for grades 7-8. Both quickly reached capacity.
From 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day, the cadets participated with officers in a wide range of activities, including being sworn in by
a judge, taking a tour of the police station and jail, learning the various duties of a police officer, working on defensive tactics
and investigating a mock crime scene. The cadets broke for lunch, but there wasn’t a lot of down time.
“They were on the go a lot, doing a lot of things,” Dodd said. “We tried to keep them engaged through the whole thing.”
Some of the cadets started out shy or uncertain, but Dodd says the different activities put them in situations where they would
have to stretch and grow. He says it was fun to see which activities brought out the best in each kid.
“We had one kid who was really shy, he wouldn’t look at you a lot, he’d talk real low – but as soon as he went through baton
training, he was the loudest kid in that room and was yelling the whole time he was doing it,” Dodd said, laughing. “It was really
great to see.”Other kids were initially disengaged and a little resistant, more interested in their phones than in the academy
activities. But Dodd and his fellow officers’ dedication got through to them before long.
“Breaking down any kind of barriers that were pre-existing that first day really helped out, and by the end of it, the kids weren’t
as worried about their phones or anything else,” Dodd said. “They were ready to have fun and do the next thing.”
Defensive tactics, handcuffing and fingerprinting were all a big hit, but he says the Nerf gun battle was far and away the most
popular activity.“That was the highlight for them,” he said. “I think they really enjoyed doing the mock crime scene, too, but they
couldn’t use any Nerf guns with it.”
Since the police academy, Dodd has seen a change in the children who attended.“It’s fantastic. Every time I go back in one of
the schools where one of these kids is currently enrolled, it’s great to see them,” Dodd said. “They always come up and talk to
their friends about what they did and ask me questions.”He now asks the academy graduates to help him with student education
initiatives on campus, like the drug and alcohol resistance program the school holds annually for fifth graders.
Outside of his work as an SRO, Dodd continues to make a positive impact with his involvement in the Smart 911 and Take Me
Home programs, which help the Cabot PD assist people with disabilities like nonverbal autism or dementia. He’s also on the
board of directors for a special needs school and the Arkansas Autism Research and Outreach Center.
“We’re a part of our community whether we’re on the clock or not, so why not try to do as best you can when you have that
chance?” he said.But Dodd’s biggest focus right now is rolling out the 2018 installment of the junior police academy.
“The next thing is to keep it going and keep it growing,” Dodd said. “We want to keep getting kids into the program, keep having
those good, positive interactions with them. Our goal one day is to maybe expand it more to have an advanced junior police
academy so our kids who have been through the first program can come to a next-level academy to do some other things.”
Most of the kids loved last year’s program so much, they want to be involved again, so he’s also creating an alumni program
focused on special school events and community service projects. During spring break, the group is volunteering at a program
called Lunch Box Connection, which serves meals and provides take-home food to families during breaks from school when kids
may otherwise not have enough to eat.
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