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Kids with intellectual disabilities assist law enforcement as Special Star Force cadets

Kids with intellectual disabilities assist law enforcement as Special Star Force cadets (ABC7)

A 7 ON YOUR SIDE holiday exclusive.

A group of Sheriff's cadets in Stafford county are sure to warm hearts this Christmas.

They are all part of a program like none other in the DC metro area for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. They are called the Special Star Force cadets and they mean business.

The Stafford county Sheriff's office, the cadets, and their parents are challenging all law enforcement agencies to follow in their footsteps.

"They want to be in law enforcement, a deputy or a police officer and we're able to make them feel like a million bucks, give them the uniform," explained Captain Steve Karey.

He was key in making the program a reality. It was a labor of love commissioned in 2007 with the first round of cadets sworn in by a judge. Karey, once a school resource officer, said it was a student named Luke who got him moving on the idea.

Karey explained, "just about every morning when I arrived at the high school, he was there at the front door waiting for me and he'd say hey Steve and I'd say hey Luke and he'd say I'm going to be your partner today."

So the sheriff's office rolled up their collective sleeves and got to work. In partnership with the area Special Olympics, they were able bring the Star Force Cadets into existence.

It was the first cadet program of its kind in Virginia. Only one department in Petersburg has followed suit so far.

(You have to check out the video above because it is the first time the cadets were on television. 7 ON YOUR SIDE Fighting Back against crime investigator, Jennifer Donelan, spent a recent Saturday with the star force cadets and by the end of the trip the cadets had her up and dancing.)

"I like learning about police stuff what they do and how they work," explained cadet captain Jordan Rowland.

His parents explained he falls under the autism spectrum.

"There is not a lot of outreach programs out there for special needs adults," said his father, Robert Rowland.

Jordan's bigggest challenges are shyness and interacting with others, said his parents. But now he is in command of the whole unitl.

"It gives him self confidence of being up front speaking in front of people as well," said his father.

Captain Karey summed it up this way, "it's all about inclusion, it's all about respect and its about unity and hope and who doesn't want that?"

The star force cadet program in Stafford is open to county residents with intellectual disabilities between 13 and 22 years old. When a cadet ages out of the program, the Sheriff's office doesn't simply send them on their way. The cadets become advisors and stay with the program.

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