Our Youth-Police Engagement Program ended with an informative and action-packed day at the Camden County Regional Emergency Training Center—where the Camden County Police Department (CCPD) trains its newest recruits. Our partner CCPD officers welcomed our group for a full day at the center, where the students experienced a day in the life of an officer in training.
Our day began with an introduction to two of CCPD’s most common calls: emotionally disturbed persons and domestic violence. The officers talked us through their approach to communicating with people in these fraught situations. Beginning with this conversation about tactics for safety and diffusion, and throughout the day, the students became increasingly more sensitive to the officers’ challenge to emerge from one situation after another without being harmed or needlessly harming others. They were filled with questions—how do the officers decide when to shoot? Are they afraid? How do they know the right things to say to a person in a fragile state? The CCPD officers were patient and thorough as they guided the students through tough situations and lessons learned.
Meeting with the K-9 team was a highlight of the day. The students enjoyed learning about the roles of the youngest CCPD officers: two dogs, technically still puppies, that assist the officers in everything from bomb searches to searching for missing juveniles. The students took turns rubbing leather patches on their skin and hiding them outside. They then got to watch the dogs search for and retrieve the scented patches.
The students also learned more about the CCPD’s community engagement efforts. We took turns riding in a car that, according to one student, looked like it was from the future. We learned that the sole purpose of this eye-catching vehicle is to do just that—attract attention from Camden’s young people and provide a fun, low stress opportunity for officers and local youth to bond.
Finally, we hosted a celebratory lunch and closed the day with each student receiving a certificate for their participation. As we formally closed out the program for the year, many students asked about the following year, sharing ideas for getting more of their friends involved and expressing how much fun they had with the officers. Similarly, the CCPD officers shared their commitment to continuing to work on fostering more positive relationships with Camden youth.