Santa Barbara, California, July 26, 2021 – After 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic and polarizing discussions about policing in the United States, teens and local police officers had the unique opportunity to come together in an open-minded and stress-free environment during of the Cops & Kids camp last June. For four days, 32 teenagers from the Santa Barbara Police Activities League (SBPAL) gathered at Circle V Ranch Camp with officers from the Santa Barbara City Police Department. In addition to participating in typical summer camp activities including skits, swimming and hiking, the teens also participated in workshops such as the Street Smarts program, which focused on developing leadership skills and in team building.
The annual Cops & Kids Camp, hosted by SBPAL, provides a wonderful free camp experience for youth who might not otherwise be able to participate in such a program. The camp is also an opportunity for teens to get to know the local police and learn more about their work in the community.
Having the opportunity to interact with police officers and develop mentoring relationships is an experience that many teens do not have outside of SBPAL. Through this camp, teens can ask questions and have honest conversations with officers. After the camp, participants expressed increased self-confidence, leadership skills and ease among the police.
âIt’s very beautiful because you have a family outside of your family. You will be able to start a new family. You can make new friends. You get opportunities like going to camp. I was very shy, but when I got to PAL it really helped me open up. It really helped me connect with new people, with the cops, and see their work from a different perspective, âshared a participant at Camp Cops & Kids.
Camp Cops & Kids is an example of community policing, where officers get to know the youth and families in the community where they work. It’s a critical time for teens to have these conversations and to be able to ask questions that are often emotional and difficult. The environment of the Cops & Kids camp is particularly suitable for these conversations, which leads to a better mutual understanding for the teenagers and the agents.
To ensure that the camp experience is effective in providing a fun and positive experience for participants, SBPAL conducted a post and pre-survey. The survey questions included what participants thought of the police, their sense of belonging and what they hoped to gain from the camp. The preliminary investigation reported higher levels of isolation, a lack of confidence among the police and uncertainty about how they would feel about attending the camp. The post-poll survey showed an overall 18% increase in feelings of safety and trust in police officers. The post-survey poll also showed that more students learned about community resources, developed a better understanding of community policing, and felt more comfortable trusting law enforcement.
âAt the heart of it all, we care about each other. It gives us the opportunity to learn from each other and to learn from each other. It’s as useful for officers as it is for the kids who can attend, âsaid Lt. Aaron Baker of the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Hear from the teens and the officers themselves, and take a peek at Camp Cops & Kids at this video.
The Santa Barbara Police Activities League strives to bridge the gap between cops, kids, and our community through educational, athletic, and leadership enrichment programs. SBPAL, located at the Twelve35 Teen Center (1235 Chapala Street), offers teens holistic programming that includes academic support and a wide range of enrichment programs such as classes and fitness equipment, environmental education and referral support. in matters of social, emotional and mental well-being.
For more information on SBPAL, visit their website at www.sbpal.org.