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Newton Police internship program offers up-close look at training

A WickedLocal article by Julie M. Cohen 

Posted Apr 30, 2019 at 6:05 PM


Elizangela Mendes tensed as a college student threatened classmates with a gun. Without a moment to hesitate, she shot the man in the hip, likely saving the other students’ lives … at least during a stressful video simulation.

“What’s important about that scenario is you see what little time an officer has,” said Lt. John Daly to a small group of college students participating in the Newton Police Department’s Student Internship Program.

Sitting outside the gun range in headquarters’ basement on a recent weekday, the two other interns waited their turns to don ear protectors and navigate the nerve-wracking scenarios. During a critical moment in each video, they would decide whether or not to fire live ammunition at a suspect. Afterward, officers critiqued whether the student should have used force and could measure the accuracy of the shots.

Mendes, a Pine Manor College senior participating in the 12-week program, is awaiting the results of her civil service exam to see if she can move forward with her dream of becoming an officer.

Originally from Cape Verde, she came to the U.S. in 2009 and said she aims to become a police officer because, “I want to be here to help people.”

The Brockton resident also has another goal: “As a woman of color, I want to go there [the police academy] and prove that we all can do it.”

Before enrolling in the program, neither Mendes nor interns Abdulmajeed Alhawsawi, a student at Lasell College, and Newton resident Sofia Iodice, of Mass Bay Community College, had ever fired a gun.

“It’s not an easy job,” said Alhawsawi who lives in Malden but will return to his native Saudi Arabia after graduation. There he will decide whether to pursue a law enforcement career.

Iodice, who is also awaiting her civil service exam results, has always liked solving puzzles and is a fan of “Law and Order.” One day she hopes to become a detective.

Hands-on approach

The idea for an internship program sparked after Newton Police Chief David MacDonald was invited to speak on a community policing panel in 2016 at Pine Manor.

MacDonald and school president Thomas O’Reilly talked about the state of policing and thought about partnering on an internship program.

The chief said that they discussed the difficulties recruiting police officers of color and the fact Pine Manor has a high enrollment of students of color.

“We wanted to generate interest in this profession … particularly within the minority community,” said MacDonald.

The program is limited to eight students per semester, and the chief said they would like to expand it eventually.

Although the program was designed for students at Lasell and Pine Manor, when there is space, students from other schools can participate.

Community Outreach Officer Bret Ferolito has been running the program since it began in 2017. Justin Lau, another community outreach officer, became part of the program in 2018.

“I’ve always loved kids,” said Lau, who said he enjoys being a mentor.

“We get a bad rap in the media. Police work can be misunderstood,” said Ferolito. With the internship program, “We can show the inner workings of a police department.”

Students spend eight hours on Fridays, shadowing different members of the department including a dispatcher, a detective, and riding with a patrol officer. They also learn about the courts, elder affairs, domestic violence, mental health, the DEA taskforce, use of force, firearms, CPR, and much more. They even go on ride-alongs with officers – a particularly popular training experience.

To learn more about the Newton Police Department’s internship program, call Officers Lau and Ferolito at 617-796-3611.

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