AMHERST – In the short time the Cops for Kids Program has been operating, Const. Jason Galloway has already seen it make a huge difference in the interaction between children in the community and members of the Amherst Police Department.
“There’s no question it has made a difference,” said Galloway, who introduced the program in Amherst two years ago. “I see it when I’m driving through town and kids that have already gone through the program smile and wave at you. We’re building bridges with the community and we’re building a friendship with our young people so they know we’re there when they need us.”
The program operates like a mini police academy with the four children ages eight to 11 being treated as cadets. After breakfast at 7:30 a.m., the cadets go through physical training each morning of the five-day camp.
The cadets are broken into platoons and squads and go through various training days including how to safely enter a room, while there were firearms (not with real guns) and energy weapons training and motor vehicle checkstops and a demonstration with the RCMP canine unit.
Galloway said the camp also included some first aid training and how to conduct a water rescue.
“We talked to the cadets about how to perform a water rescue and what to do when you’re in a canoe and it tips over. We talked about always wearing a personal flotation device or life jacket and how to get to the air pocket under the boat,” Galloway said. “We then went to the YMCA pool and demonstrated by putting a canoe in the pool and tipping it over.”
Galloway said referrals to the program came from community partners such as CANSA, Maggie’s Place and Family and Children’s Services while other participants came via word of mouth. The program also had a booth during Police Week activities in the spring.
“This is all about building bridges with our young people so they don’t fear police officers and they feel comfortable being around police officers,” he said. “We want them to understand that we’re just like they are and we hope that the children who come through our program will make responsible choices when they are older.”
The Amherst Youth Town Council has also worked with members of the Amherst Police, volunteering as squad and platoon leaders.
“The dedication they’ve shown is amazing. We’ve had some former council members take vacation time at their jobs so they can come here and volunteer,” Galloway said. “They’ve all done an amazing job.”
The program wraps up Friday with fishing (rain or shine) and a boat tour on the marsh near town. Parents are invited to the stadium at 2:30 p .m. at which time the cadets will march in like they would if graduating from the Atlantic Police Academy. He said there will be a number of presentations with some cadets being recognized for certain achievements.