AMHERST – The Amhert Police Department has expanded its ranks for one week. Thirty-two kids, making two platoons, were ‘sworn in’ Monday morning, the first day of a week-long Cops for Kids day camp focused on the role of police in the community.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback from parents and kids,” said Const. Jason Gallaway, who first proposed the idea, borrowed from his service in Miramichi.
It was hot in the upstairs room at the Amherst Stadium. The kids were drinking water, having returned from tours: one platoon to the fire department, another to EHS. After a break, they’d be heading down to the arena floor for a physical fitness test.
Galloway was briefing the campers on the ways in which different officers choose to assemble their duty belts: baton here, handcuffs there. The children had an opportunity to ask questions, but raised hand after raised hand yielded the same request: Could Galloway pepper spray someone?
The organizer encouraged kids to ask questions unrelated to hurting people.
The free camp is for eight to 11 year olds. Justin Bennett is 10.
“My parents are encouraging me to do stuff so I know what I can be when I grow up,” he said.
A police officer, perhaps?
“So far maybe.”
Other career contenders are a banker or a businessman.
“It’s going great,” said Const. Tom Wood. “I’m commanding red platoon.”
He said his 15 ‘candidates’ have been well behaved. Commanding blue platoon was Const. Derek Hebert.
Wood said the kids were a good target group – an impressionable age, and a good time to let them see the positive side of police officers.
Peter Woo was one of seven Amherst Youth Town Council members volunteering with the camp. He reiterated the goal of kids becoming aware of what police do, and overcoming fear of the authority figures.
“It’s not just about arresting bad guys,” he said.
The next day would include shooting paintball guns at targets, and a taser demonstration. Galloway thought the fishing trip planned for Friday would be a highlight as well (youngster Bennett was anticipating the end-of-week outing).
The organizer said the kids would be having a small test at the end of the first day, and another on Friday, to ascertain how much they’d learned. Const. Wood said a majority of kids had raised their hands when asked who among them wanted to be police officers. They planned to revisit that question at the end of camp as well.
“The Town of Amherst has really stepped up,” said Galloway.
The municipality sponsored the camp with the police department. Pizza Delight supplied free pizzas the first day, and planned to donate a second free lunch during the week.
Galloway’s impression was that the camp may some day produce a couple of police officers, and that for kids whose paths through life may still be very much up in the air, the camp would sway them in a good direction. He expressed his hope he’d have 32 new friends in Amherst at the end of the week.