Officer for a day Matthew Martin

An arresting summer camp

It’s no funny business with Matthew Martin, 10, and his partner, 8-year-old Chloe Pruden. The duo, in blue uniforms and toy guns on their hips, acted as police officers on Tuesday morning, part of the Kids N’ Kops summer mentoring camp in Lacombe.

It’s no funny business with Matthew Martin, 10, and his partner, 8-year-old Chloe Pruden.

The duo, in blue uniforms and toy guns on their hips, acted as police officers on Tuesday morning, part of the Kids N’ Kops summer mentoring camp in Lacombe.

In a staged scenario involving an intoxicated driver, Pruden wasted no time in asking the driver if she had been drinking.

“Please step out of the car,” said Martin next, unimpressed by the answer.

“And just stay where I can see you.”

A few more questions and the youngsters have slapped the cuffs on volunteer/actor Jennifer Opdendries and called it a day’s work.

Martin and Pruden are two of 24 children donning pretend badges and protecting the streets in Lacombe this week as part of the camp, now in its seventh year.

A partnership between Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lacombe and District, the Lacombe and Blackfalds police departments, local sheriffs and RCMP, Kids N’ Kops offers an inside look about what it’s like to be in the police force for four days.

“This is an opportunity for kids to learn more about us, work hand in hand and it also brings us to them as more human versus that robotic cop striding by on the street. … We want them to know they can come to us,” said Staff Sgt. Ken Morrison with the Blackfalds detachment.

“It’s a great way to strengthen that connection to the community, too.”

The impact of the summer program carries forward into the future, said Crystal Zens, executive director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

“To build a friendly bond with the police and give them future aspirations is an incredible part of the program,” Zens said.

“We want to build a relationship now so that as these young people get older and maybe face some challenges in life, maybe they can draw on the fact that they have talked to police officers before and it was a good thing,” added Chief Steve Murray of the Lacombe Police Service, who has been involved with Kids N’ Kops for five years.

The camp, which won the Solicitor General and Public Security Crime Prevention Award in 2010, fills up quickly every year, with 30 on the waiting list this summer. Some years there have been as many as 60 children waiting for a spot, said Zens.

In addition to a police academy training day and solving a mystery in the Lacombe library, the participants also have a chance to play laser tag, watch Mall Cop, take a field trip for police boat races at Bower Ponds and visit the police canine kennels in Innisfail.

On Tuesday, pairs were partnered up with real police officers and tasked with handling a number of staged incidents, including a drug bust, impaired driver, shoplifting, a noisy party and graffiti vandalism.

“The whole community really gets involved. We have actors all over, at the Mac’s, the Rexall drug store. It’s great,” said Zens.

A total of 45 volunteers are helping with Kids N’ Kops, which wraps up on Thursday.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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