The successful completion of a summer program left organizers of the Junior Police Academy aglow and enthusiastic about another happy return of the popular youth activity.
Nancy Ball, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County presented Chief Deputy Rick Combs of the Clermont County Sheriff’s Department with letter of “appreciation and applause” for his department’s work in organizing the four weeks of youth/police interaction.
“This is great for the community, when kids and cops become friends,” said Ball. “It’s good for everybody, it gives the police officers and kids an opportunity to see each other in a different light. Any opportunity to form a positive relationship like this is great.”
The Junior Police Academy this year consisted of four weeks of a day camp-style program, with one week each being located in four different parts of the county. Officers from a number of law enforcement agencies collaborated on the program, which exposes children to law enforcement practices.
Interested in how to analyze a crime scene? Ever wondered how water search and rescue is handled? Have the burning desire to learn how to put clues together to solve a crime? Classes and activities like this were a part of the program, which not only helps teach children, but also forges a bond between kids and law enforcement.
“The officers love it, the interaction with people and kids,” said Chief Deputy Combs. “This is a time when they don’t have to take a stand on something that people don’t like. We enforce the law, and a lot of times are decisions are limited by the law. In this case, we see people in a different light, we see them as people and individuals and pupils we work with. The officers say it’s positive, and a way of explaining their craft. Anytime you can have policemen sit down with the public and explain what their craft involves, it makes them feel good. The people are more informed about what we really do.”
The program itself was researched and accepted by the sheriff’s department three years ago and has been a summer tradition ever since. Chief Deputy Combs said that it seemed like a worthwhile venture at the time, and the bonus has been seeing kids find the human side of law enforcement. Instead of seeing cops as the bad guys in traffic stops, said Chief Deputy Combs, they can see a wider range of what law enforcement is. Sometimes, that leads to kids seeking a career in law enforcement. Other times, it can help inspire kids to stay on the right side of the law.
“We have members of the military come in and lead the kids in exercise every morning,” said Chief Deputy Combs. “We have classes, a variety of specialty agencies come in and do trainings. A lot of the kids walk away, we’ve been told, with a better idea of what public service is. I think that’s what we gear towards. Those who may have an inkling that they would like this career, we think this is an attractive way to display it, and we may get some of these people in the coming years.”
In addition, the program also provides different law enforcement agencies with an opportunity to gather and bond in a no-stress situation.
“Our guys love it, and Goshen, Miami Township, Pierce Township and Union Township are also involved,” said Chief Deputy Combs. “We put it on four weeks this year. The other agencies work with us, and that’s a good thing. We get a lot out of it because we can work with the other agencies in a positive way instead of worrying about a stressful or tragic situation. They can see each other in a more personal role than business.”
The Boys and Girls Club, celebrating its 10th year in the county, is designed around programs like this, said Ball, that bring children and adults together in a safe environment.
“We are, more than anything, a safe place for kids to be when they’re not in school,” said Ball. “There are not enough after school programs for kids in Clermont County. We’re trying to correct that. There aren’t enough, and the ones that exist are out-of-reach. There is a desperate need for kids to have that adult-supervised time after school, or else they will be at home alone or out on the streets.”
The Boys and Girls Club is open to all children, age 6-18, and is held year-round, giving parents a place to keep their children safe at while they are at work. While sometimes subject to being full, the program is currently accepting new children for a fee of $5 a year. During the school year, the program runs from 3-7 p.m., Monday through Friday. During breaks such as summer and spring, the program runs from noon to 5 p.m.
“We try to be there when parents are likely at work and kids are on their own,” said Ball. “We’re a positive place for kids. Besides being safe, kids will tell you it’s fun. There are games like basketball, we’ve got cool things to make and activities. In addition to having fun, whether they realize it or not, the kids are getting guidance. Everything has a point, our programs are run by trained, professional staff. They are helping kids develop confidence, competence, self-esteem, character and habits they will need to succeed as adults.”
In addition to the Junior Police Academy, the Boys and Girls Club has other activities and programs offered on a daily basis. Kids participating in the program will be able to do everything from play basketball to make crafts, and one stalwart program continues to be a homework/school work program that has, said Ball, shown results in terms of academics in the past.
“The kids, if they’re doing their own homework or helping another kid with their homework, they have a chance to earn points which can be redeemed for things like school supplies or a field trip,” said Ball. “They get the chance to get help with things they struggle with at school, they have adults reinforce for them the value of education and that has great results. Each time we’ve checked, anywhere from 51 percent to 74 percent of the kids in that program have shown an improvement with their grades in school and/or their school attendance.”
Other programs include prevention classes on issues such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sex. For more information, go online to www.positiveplace4kids.org.
“One of the reasons it (Junior Police Academy) is successful is because of the great experience it is for kids,” said Ball. “There were so many kids who went through the program, and it’s a challenging week in a way that they can get excited about. The kids are called on to use math skills and deductive reasoning – skills that they develop through the program. In addition to that, this is another opportunity for kids to connect with adults. As a person in the youth development field, I can’t tell you how important that is for kids, especially teens. They need values reinforced by adults.”