Last week, a group of 24 youth experienced what it is like to be a police officer. For one week, they saw behind the scenes of law enforcement through the ever popular Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District (BBBS) Kids N’ Kops camp.
The program partners youth with members of local law enforcement agencies. From patrols, mock arrest scenarios to visiting with police dogs, the campers experienced situations the police and bylaw officers face each day.
BBBS Executive Director Crystal Zens said the feedback from this year’s camp was positive. “The basic purpose of the camp is for a police mentorship aspect and to build bonds with youth at a young age with police officers in our community.”
Throughout the week, campers experience a day in a life of a police officer through highly interactive activities.
“We also have a lot of scenarios where they can learn positive choices can open up their doors in life and things like that,” said Zens. “The goal is the youth will have life-long relationships with these policemen in their community and learn positive and negative choices.”
This year, members of the Lacombe Police Service, Blackfalds RCMP, and Town of Blackfalds peace officers participated in the mentorship program. Aspects of the camp were split between Lacombe and Blackfalds, with activities throughout the week in both communities.
“We had one and a half days in Lacombe and one and a half days in Blackfalds,” explained Zens. “The police officers that work with us get down to the kids’ level and make it so much fun. It’s a great opportunity to play and have fun but learn a lot in the process. It’s a very busy, very structured camp.”
On the first day, the campers participated in a meet and greet at the Blackfalds RCMP Detachment, checked out the police helicopter and had a pizza party.
On day two, the campers were on the move for a field trip to Red Deer and the RCMP K-9 facility along the QE II Hwy. near Innisfail.
Day three saw them participating in one of the most interactive portions of the camp – police scenarios. The campers were suited up with utility belts and handcuffs and utilizing their training and roamed the streets of Blackfalds in search of crime.
With their mentors by their side, the youth encountered many different scenarios in downtown Blackfalds including an impaired driver, two individuals conducting illegal activities in an alleyway, a mental health incident and arresting a shoplifter in the hardware store.
Although all the scenarios were simulated, the youth learned valuable tools like how to use their words, how to interact with different types of people and the importance of staying calm in high-intensity situations.
On day four, the participants played a game of police dodge ball and graduated from the program.
Due to high numbers of campers vying for spots in the camp, youth can only attend the camp once, hence the graduation from the program at the end of the week.
The camp is a collaborative effort between both communities, law enforcement agencies and volunteers.
“Over the course of the week we have over 1,200 volunteer hours on top of staff,” explained Zens. “We have so many actors in the community and so many helpers. We wouldn’t be able to do our camp the way we facilitate it without all of these amazing volunteers.”
In 2013, the BBBS Kids N’ Kops program won the Solicitors General Award of Alberta.
The innovative Lacombe-based program is now shared and implicated in other communities such as Terrace, B.C.