The relationships between law enforcement and the community are scrutinized more than ever, since officer involved shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, and most recently, Florida. Camp Hope is a local program that is starting at the beginning, with kids, and working to build a positive relationship with local police. It’s a different kind of summer camp, run by Charleston police officers.
One camper, Bernardica Brown, says, “They’re really cool, like they get us, they’re like kids themselves so it’s really good to talk to them.”
They’re coaches, comedians, and more importantly, they’re building relationships with local kids.
Charleston Police Department Senior Officer Joseph Dela Rosa says, “Hopefully they can take away from this whole experience that police officers are people too.”
Camp Hope is free and offered at multiple locations across Charleston for “at risk” elementary and middle schoolers. Michael Rucker started at Camp Hope when he was in middle school, and is back as a junior counselor.
He says, “I was really reluctant to go, my mother had signed me up. I didn’t know about it. Police Camp? I didn’t want to go to that.”
He says that quickly changed and he saw police in a new light.
Rucker says, “It gave me an opportunity to be around police officers in an environment I never would’ve been in before, and gave me a different perspective on police officers, and understand this is an occupation, and understand what they do and serve the community.”
Kids begin to open up to officers throughout the summer.
Sr. Ofc. Dela Rosa says, “For the first day, it’s really interesting. They’re really quiet and shy and kind of unsure what it’s like with police officers. By the end of camp, you can see they’re running around us and getting to know us, calling some of us by our first names.”
Relationships between the community and law enforcement have been in the news a lot this summer and they are not shying away from talking about it at Camp Hope.
Rucker says, “We’ve actually had a few classes where what we talked about was what’s going on in the world. We talked about police brutality, we talked about how it’s best to stay safe around police officers, especially during traffic stops, or even any normal encounter on the streets.”
Friday was the last day of Camp Hope for the year, but applications for next summer will be available at local schools after the first of the year.