Seymour SRO camp expands this year

As expected, kids attending the SRO Summer Camp learned about a variety of aspects of law enforcement.

They met police officers with different ranks and jobs, including school resource officers, detectives, lieutenants, sergeants, K-9 handlers, SWAT and animal control.

They also were introduced to police cars and emergency vehicle operations and even got to see demonstrations with Tasers, drones and firearms. Plus, they experienced drunk goggles and traffic stops.

Introducing them to other first responders was equally important to the organizers.

Ambulance personnel, conservation officers, firefighters and swift water rescue team members spoke to the fifth- and sixth-graders, too.

There also were talks on bicycle safety and vape education, and there were live animals from a raptor center. Kids attending the first session even participated in a mock exercise involving an anhydrous ammonia spill.

“We want to involve as many first responders as we can,” said Chadd Rogers, the school resource officer at Seymour High School. “We have ambulance come. We have fire. We have police. We have conservation. Just the more people we can get involved, the better.”

This was the second year for the SRO Summer Camp, which is a partnership between the Seymour Police Department and Seymour Community School Corp.

Last year, it was just a three-day camp in one week. This year, it was broken into two three-day sessions with 17 kids the first week and 20 the second week.

“In the mid-30s, that was about the number we could do,” Rogers said. “We don’t want to exclude any children from coming if they want to. Next year, we plan on trying to grow it even a little bigger.”

The SROs chose incoming fifth- and sixth-graders since those kids will be attending the new Seymour Intermediate School together in the new school year.

“Our initial goal was they’ll all be at the intermediate building and hopefully have more friends in both grades that they can be more comfortable,” Rogers said. “When they go back to school, they’ll all be in the new fifth and sixth grade center, so they’ll have an instant bond with at least 20 other kids that they know. Hopefully, that will help them in their school day.”

On the first day of the camp, the kids recited the Pledge of Allegiance before they were introduced to the SROs and then were split into squads and learned about formations, drills and movements.

Each day included a combination of law enforcement topics and special guests talking about their professions.

Conservation officers, Department of Natural Resources employees and a health department educator were new to this year’s camp. The Taser demonstration was new, too, as two people volunteered to be tased one day each week.

The anhydrous ammonia exercise also was a new experience.

“It was already scheduled. It just happened to be when we were doing the camp,” Seymour Middle School SRO Jason Wynn said of the exercise.

“The ones I talked to enjoyed it. They had a good time,” Rogers said. “I think they enjoyed being ‘decontaminated’ by a walk through all of the fire hoses. We also tried to educate all of the kids that were out there about what anhydrous ammonia is. Not all of them knew, so it was an educational thing, and they enjoyed seeing the first responders. It was a fun time.”

Aside from learning about firefighting and visiting the Seymour Fire Department’s training facility, the kids also had the chance to cool down one day with a firefighter spraying them with water from a truck. Other fun activities included dodgeball and egg relays.

The other sites for activities were Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 and the Seymour Ag-Science and Research Facility.

“It’s fun to interact with the kids and talk to them at the end of each day to see what was your favorite part, to hear the different answers and to see how their mind works and see exactly what did they like, things we need to change for next year to make it better,” Rogers said. “They are young enough to see how all of the first responders work and have a better relationship with them.”

Kaiden Waggoner, 11, attended the camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m just really into the police stuff, so I thought maybe I would be good for this,” he said of what brought him back this year.

He said his favorite part is learning about guns.

“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “I think it’s really useful and it’s a really good choice for kids.”

Waggoner also liked riding in the back seat of a police car while an officer drove around orange cones to demonstrate what officers have to do as part of their driving training. He had just eaten pizza for lunch but wasn’t nauseous after the officer drove at a higher rate of speed as he swerved back and forth.

“It was a pretty cool experience,” he said. “I’ve never been in a cop car except for the last time we did that (last year).”

On that same ride, Alex Newcomb, 9, sat in the front seat. The first-year camper said it was like being in the video game Grand Theft Auto. He also liked the Taser demonstration even though he said it was scary.

“It sounded like maybe I could be good for being an officer, and it sounds like a really good job to do,” Newcomb said of why he chose to attend the camp for the first time. “You get a chance to learn about what it’s like being an officer.”

Myles Calhoun, 11, also was new to the SRO Summer Camp.

“My friends were doing it. They kept saying it’s fun,” he said.

When asked what he liked about it, he immediately smiled and said, “Everything.”

Rogers summed up the second year of the camp with a positive note.

“The officers are having a great time with it. Kids seem to be having fun. The parents are providing a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “We’ll keep it going and grow it if we can.”