Fairview Heights, IL- Police leaders in the Metro East have formed a new youth organization called Metro East Cadets Of Policing (MECOP). The program just completed it’s first of 10 weeks on Saturday January 9th.
The program includes 29 Cadets, both men and women- ages 14 to 21, who are interested in learning more about a possible career in Law Enforcement. Cadets accepted into the program were interviewed first for the program, and a background check was also conducted. The program is available to Cadets until they reach the maximum age of 21. The Cadets meet at the Fairview Heights Police Department every Saturday morning promptly at 9:00 a.m.to begin training. The Cadets must adhere to several rules throughout the 10 week program such as maintaining a C+ G.P.A. in school and wearing an assigned uniform during program hours.
The main objectives of the MECOP program is to: (1) serve as a tool to diversify police candidate recruitment in the area; (2) promote positive interactions and understanding between police and youth; (3) provide career development skills to Cadets; (4) develop a sense of community and a dedication to service among young men and women interested in law enforcement.
Cadets are placed into a learning environment to help prepare them for careers on policing or public service. In addition to learning policing techniques, the Cadets are exposed to training on ethics and integrity, leadership and teamwork, physical fitness, communication skills, and career preparedness. In addition to learning about policing, the program also offers cadets opportunities for community service, and fun activities including both educational field trips and recreational entertainment including camping, sporting events, and other outdoor activities.
Chief Nicholas Gailius of the Fairview Heights Police Department, who conceived this program stated, “MECOP is an exciting new program that belongs not to one police agency. We have collaborated to create a program focused on recruiting high school aged youth, doing more to prepare them for a career in policing or some other public service position. An added benefit is the development of more positive relationships with our youth, especially in communities where police-citizen relationships may not be as strong as they could be. We want to show our young people that policing is a noble profession, filled with men and women who are committed to upholding the highest ideals of service to others. We especially hope to improve our minority recruitment efforts. We believe one way to do this is to have deep, meaningful and long-lasting relationships with potential future recruits from a younger age than typical. We want to show each of them that they can make a difference in their communities and be agents of change through a rewarding career.”
The Illinois State Police has been vital in assisting the Fairview Heights Police Department with coordinating this program. The Illinois State Police has several Troopers and Agents participating in this program on a weekly basis.
"Police youth leadership camps are an effective way for Law Enforcement to influence young lives, and improve police-community relations. This is the very first year for MECOP, and the Illinois State Police is honored and privileged to be a part of such a historic program,” added ISP District 11 interim Captain Timothy Tyler.”
In addition to many other police agencies in the Metro-east being involved, the MECOP program is supported by a number of other organizations including the Illinois State Police, United States’ Attorney Office for the Southern District of Illinois, St. Clair County States’ Attorney Brendan Kelly, Boy Scouts of America, Urban League of St. Louis, and the Law Enforcement Foundation of Illinois.