HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Most people play by the rules in order to stay out of police custody. But some Huntsville students minded their manners all year for the opposite reason – so they could spend a week with officers.
Sara Carter won a dance competition at summer camp. Yet, that’s not the highlight of her week.
“I think it’s probably learning new things and meeting new friends,” Carter said while playing at Monte Sano State Park. “They’re really funny.”
Carter is attending the annual School Resource Officer’s Youth Camp with Huntsville Police.
“At school they give me this look like, ‘hey,’ and I’m like, ‘hey,’ because I don’t really know them,” carter said about the officers she sees out and about at her school. “So this kind of changes my perspective about them. I’m not afraid to say hi to them anymore.”
Dispelling that fear is one of the department’s missions.
“It builds the bridge between the police and kids,” SRO Patrick Salvail said. “Sometimes kids have a misconception with law enforcement, things that happen nationally, we’re able to communicate with these kids. If we build that bridge with them, build that rapport with them, we might get a question out of them and we might take that rumor and dispel that rumor.”
Campers are nominated by their teachers, counselors and even other officers. The students spend eight hours a day with the SROs playing games and team building.
“We might save a life one day because if some of them are bent out of shape, or depressed or something like that, it could be as easy as us saying ‘good morning’ to them, that might change them because somebody’s listening to them,” Salvail explained.
Police say hanging out with the children’s smiling faces is the foundation of community policing. The SRO Youth Camp is free for the 60 children attending. It’s paid for by community sponsors. Friday is the last day and the camp wraps up with inflatables and a visit from Huntsville Fire and Rescue.