As summer programs go, there is just about anything you can think of from athletics to camping, faith-based programs to science camps.
Here in Charlotte, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department launched a new camp for middle school students, and it got high marks from kids who got a firsthand look at law enforcement.
“This camp is different because it teaches you about discipline and not only what you see on the news about the police,” said Qa’id Luqmaan, a rising 6th grade student at Kennedy Middle School. “When you’re here and see what officers go through, it gives you a different perspective and different opinion, and you can step into their shoes.”
The one-week, hands-on course is for young people who are interested in a career in law enforcement or students who would like to find out more about CMPD.
“The field trips were very fun because we got to be all around different parts of Charlotte, like when we went to the lake unit that was my favorite, and the K9 units were great too,” said Jason Rivera, a program participant.
While the K9 and lake units got top marks, the kids had some other top picks including crime scene investigation and defensive tactics.
Demonstrations from different units were presented to show the multitude of responsibilities of wearing the badge.
Ryan Botzenmayer went through the CMPD high school program in the late 1990s and is the lead officer for the new middle school program.
“We’re opening our doors to middle school students and giving them a glimpse of what police officers do,” Botzenmayer said. “We have so many career paths that you can go with the police department, so we’re building that positive relationship and trust with the youth today.”
Botzenmayer, also known as Officer Botz, is no stranger to positive community engagement. In 2020, he received the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee Community Relations Awards for his compassion and sincere kindness to the community.
“The news kind of gave me an idea that the police are bad and they don’t care about us,” Luqmaann said. “But when you actually step into their shoes, it’s not about the police, it’s about what the person did. So, you can’t really blame (the police), so it just depends on the situation.”
Although there may be barriers to stronger police-youth relationships, this program has strong potential to continue the existing CMPD high school program that has been building strong police-community relationships for decades.
“We deal with so many people during calls for service and it’s usually when people are having an emergency or the worst day of their life.” Botzemayer said. “To see these kids and experience in a different light, I think the overall experience is positive on both sides for officers and also the youth themselves.”
Of the 21 students, about 25% were interested in a career in law enforcement at the beginning of the program, but by the end of the week, over half thought they would pursue a job with CMPD.
“I definitely would like to recommend this camp to other middle schoolers,” Luqmaan said. “It’s a good opportunity and yeah it’s been a really good, really great experience here.”
This engaging program is putting officers and kids together in healthy, social activities that build exceptional relationships, mutual respect and understanding.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.
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