Hezekiah Bennett has always had an interest in law enforcement, and this week, the youngster has had an opportunity to not only learn about the profession, but get some hands-on experience under his belt.
Bennett was one of the dozen youth who took part in the summer camp that was hosted by the Clinton Police Department. The camp is leading up to the Block Party, a community celebration event sponsored by Olive Grove Church.
According to Clinton Police Chief Donald Edwards, with encouragement from councilman Darue Bryant, the department felt such a community event could not only provide activities for local youth, but better acquaint residents in the area with police officers and their duties.
“Our goal has been to have the kids interact and work with law enforcement and build a trusting relationship with our officers,” Edwards said.
Campers gathered each day this week at Olive Grove Church and took part in various activities. Monday, Edwards said the kids were able to hear the story of addiction from two recovering addicts, as well as learn about drugs and drug awareness from an officer. Tuesday, after teaching the kids about situational awareness and the buddy system, Edwards said they took the youth on a walk around downtown to give them the opportunity to enact what they learned.
Wednesday, officers Saturnino Crespo, James Jones and Salah O’Neill talked with the campers about the forensic side of the police department and then showed them how to use magnetic dust to lift fingerprints.
“We structured the camp almost like Vacation Bible School,” Edwards explained. “Each day, the campers had an activity and a lesson.”
The four-day long camp was free for all of the youth who attended. Campers ranged in age from nine years old to 14.
“My hope is that we can learn from this year and grow the camp in the future,” Edwards said.
For Bennett, the camp was a great experience and something he says he hopes to do again in the future.
“I have enjoyed this week,” the middle schooler explained. “I have always had an interest in being a police officer and this week has allowed me the chance to learn more about that profession.”
Bennett said his favorite part was being able to wear the “drunk goggles” and drive the golf cart.
As part of the police department’s goal, Edwards says he hopes his staff can earn the trust of the community and learn that his officers are here to help.
“I don’t want the public to feel afraid to call on my officers,” Edwards reiterated. “The interaction the officers have had this week with the kids has been good and hope those relationships continue to grow.”
Friday night’s Block Party will be hosted at the Sampson Center from 6-9 p.m. Olive Grove pastor Russ Emanuel says the event will provide food, fellowship and fun for all the kids.
The students who attended the summer camp will be presented with their certificates of achievement.
“Our church is committed to serving in the city,” Emanuel said. “We believe the greatest way to grow in Christ is to serve others. So this is just a time for us to share that love.”
Olive Grove Church has partnered with Higher Level Ministries pastor Onyx Martin, as well as the police department, to host Friday night’s event. Among those participating are, the Clinton Fire Department, the city Parks and Recreation Department, Grid Iron Gym, Darue Bryant, Rob Ayecock and Dr. Rodney Sessoms.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.