As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, the Athens Clarke County Police Department is continuing to implement its community policing philosophy during its Youth Summer Camp.
“By doing this — getting out here with the kids and showing them that we’re people, too — its makes them not afraid to approach police officers,” said Youth Services Officer Greg Slaney, a 19-year veteran of the department. “At the same time, we’re giving these kids something productive to do instead of sitting at home on a game station.”
During the two, two-week day camps taking place this month, 75 boys and girls ages 8 to 14 will work through the Gang Resistance Education and Training summer program that targets communication skills, conflict resolution and goal setting.
“I’ve had kids come up to me and tell me how they used the conflict resolution skills they learned at camp to stop their friends from fighting,” Slaney said. “The skills that we teach out of the G.R.E.A.T. program, they really work.”
Aside from classroom work, campers also play games, do crafts and attend field trips.
We’re taking the kids bowling for a field trip,” Slaney said. “A lot of the kids have never been bowling, so it’s great that we can give them these new experiences.”
Serving as camp “team leaders,” ACC School Resource Officers trade in their uniforms for camp T-shirts and shorts, which makes it difficult for some kids to recognize them dressed that way.
“We’re dressed down in regular clothes, like regular people,” he said. “This way, the kids see us as people and not just as badges.”
Senior Police Officer Timothy Clark, a 19-veteran of the ACCPD, is one officer who volunteers with the camp.
“This summer camp is critical,” he said. “The kids learn self-discipline and how to respond to some of the circumstances they may encounter in life so hopefully they can make better choices.”
To hear it from the campers, it’s obvious that the ACCPD is accomplishing its goal of building relationships in the community.
“I didn’t really like cops at first because of everything you see on the news,” said Stacy Lumpkin, a rising freshman at Cedar Shoals High School. “But Athens-wise, I’ve learned that they’re cool people.”
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