Alex Schmeling

Clapping and cheering, New Haven Police Academy recruits greeted King/Robinson Interdistrict Magnet School students as they arrived at school on the morning of Feb. 24.

The 29 recruits of the academy’s current class came to the New Haven magnet school to help celebrate World Read Aloud Day, an international holiday that emphasizes the value of reading aloud and sharing stories. After welcoming the students to school, each recruit spent roughly 30 minutes reading with a group of two to three students in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade. Students’ family members also joined in the reading and festivities of the day, which included a slam poetry workshop and featured guest speakers. NHPD Capt. Julie Johnson, who is in charge of training across the entire police department, said the significance of the recruits’ participation in the holiday extends beyond supporting childhood education. Johnson said the recruits’ participation strengthens the bond between the NHPD and the community.

“The purpose obviously is to get kids to read,” Johnson said. “What really we wanted was to give the recruits an opportunity to go into the community … We’re trying to do more of that.”

World Read Aloud Day is one of many community programs that police recruits, who are given a conditional offer of hire by the NHPD contingent on their completion of the New Haven Police Academy, participate in as a part of their 30-week training. The recruits will also partner with the United Way of Greater New Haven to partake in Read Across America Day at Clinton Avenue School on Wednesday.

The New Haven Police Academy also offers a graduation-with-distinction program for recruits who complete at least 40 hours of community service during their training. The recruits can meet neighborhood management teams and alders as well as connect with NHPD district managers who direct community service projects in the Elm City.

“Each year we become more and more involved [in the community],” NHPD Chief Dean Esserman said. “Such programs are as important for our public servants as they are for the students. I’m grateful to the academy staff and recruits for their interest and participation.”

Including community involvement in recruit training contributes to the NHPD’s efforts to practice community policing, Johnson said.

Matthew Presser GRD ’10, a literacy coach at King/Robinson, first reached out to the NHPD to invite recruits to the celebration. Presser said King/Robinson has made a concerted effort to partner with the NHPD on different initiatives before.

“Given the fact that in other communities the relationship between police and young people can be strained, we thought that it’s really important for us to build those connections early on,” Presser said. “We really think it’s important for our kids to have positive first impressions of the police officers and for [the officers] to have a positive impression of our students … I think it’s beneficial for all parties.”

Bringing recruits to read at the school is an important step in introducing the students to officers who will be patrolling their neighborhoods, Johnson said.

Presser said the enthusiasm and spirit of the event were “contagious.”

“I think young kids have incredible energy and enthusiasm to show off their early reading skills,” Presser said. “There’s just really exciting energy around learning how to read and early academic skills.”

The King/Robinson Interdistrict Magnet School has about 550 students.