01-23 youth corps-03

PPD Officer Freddy Nino (center) with the Palestine Police Youth Corps cadets before the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade. The cadets are wearing uniforms purchased with a donation from Palestine's Walmart.

Whether marching in a parade, performing public service, or joining officers on police ride-alongs, members of the Palestine Police Department Public Safety Youth Corps can be seen out and about in the community.

“The corps teaches the kids more than just how to be a police officer,” PPD Cpl. Joseph Tinsley told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “They learn leadership, decision making, critical thinking, discipline, and community spirit. They become more confident in every day life.”

Tinsley, along with Sgt. David Kassaw, Officer Freddy Nino, and Community Liaison Michele Herbert, make up the board that teaches and mentors the members of the corps.

Tinsley and Kassaw were advisors to PPD's Police Explorer's program almost a decade ago, until budget cuts shut it down in 2013.

Herbert, whose son London Reyes was a Police Explorer years ago in Fort Worth, was instrumental in bringing the program back to Palestine in 2018.

“The Explorers were a tremendously positive influence on my son,” Herbert told the Herald-Press. “Not all kids are interested in sports or music, and there aren't a lot of other extracurricular activities in Palestine.”

PPD made the switch from the Police Explorers to the Public Safety Youth Corps last May. Both national groups have their own merit, Tinsley said, but the corps was simply a better fit for Palestine.

The group currently has eight active members, but is open to anyone, male or female, between 14 and 21-years-old.

“We train hard,” Tinsley said. “Those interested in joining better be prepared to work, and have an interest in policing.”

Corps cadets are trained by mentors, other police officers and guest instructors in police procedures, first aid, community relations, leadership, and more.

Last year, cadets also completed more than 170-hours of community service.

“That helps with their schooling, too,” Tinsley, a former school resource officer said. “Students need a certain amount of community service hours to graduate. This more than fulfills that requirement.”

In addition to working and training within city limits, cadets travel throughout the state to compete against other youth corps and explorer groups. In the coming months, Palestine corps cadets will compete in Grand Prairie, Waco, Fort Worth and Arlington.

Nino, the corps' lead mentor, said that although only a few cadets go on to become full-fledged police officers, having that background is beneficial to the department and city, as well as the cadet.

"This is a great program for the department because it's a great way to bridge the gap for potential recruitment of candidates that are born and raised in Palestine,” he said. “They will want to stay to serve and protect in their own community."

For more information, or to join the Palestine Police Youth Corps, call Michele Reyes at 903-731-8418.

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