CERESCO – A new club now in its second year is putting a positive light on the interaction between youth and area law enforcement.
Police Clubs have already been held this year in Ceresco and Wahoo and more are planned in other communities. Police Club is sponsored by Saunders County Youth Services, with the cooperation of the Saunders County Sheriff’s Office, Ceresco Police Department and the Nebraska State Patrol.
The kids attending the recent clubs have had a chance to do such activities as sit in the patrol cars, try their hand at fingerprinting, watch a NSP drug dog at work, get handcuffed, work with crime scene evidence and have lunch with a cop.
Ceresco Police Officer Chilton Leedom has other ideas already in mind for future Police Clubs too.
While Police Club is a multi-agency event, those agencies are giving Leedom credit for coming up with the idea for the interactive experience with law enforcement.
Leedom said he was just hoping to have a program offered in the community that helped build a positive relationships between youth and law enforcement.
Leedom, who worked with youth programs when he served with the Lincoln Police Department, said kids can be afraid of law enforcements. That is tied to the fact that some of their experiences with cops are in bad situations.
For example, they are scared and vulnerable if a police officer has to haul away one of their loved ones if they did something bad. Or if there is a car crash or serious accident, they may have had interaction with law enforcement. But then too, their emotions are high.
If those are the only experiences, Leedom said the kids’ view of police is negative.
“I want to change that narrative because I know kids are afraid of us,” he said.
The police may still have to arrest a loved one or work with a kid during a time of high stress, but increasing the amount of interaction can change perceptions.
“I want kids to get to know cops,” he said. “I want kids to know that we are the good guys and we are there to help.”
In Ceresco June 17, there were about 30 youth who showed up for Police Club. In Wahoo the week before, there were about 25.
Leedom said he was happy with the numbers, but would like to reach even more kids.
There has been discussion about holding a Police Club in Ashland and Yutan. Another one is planned in Ceresco later this summer as well.
Some of the basics, like fingerprinting, will take place at each Police Club.
“That sort of stuff never grows old,” Leedom said.
But, he also would like to bring in other activities, such as the radar gun or police helicopters, to offer new experiences for repeat attendees. He added there is also a breakout of activities at Police Club for the older and the younger kids.
He dreams of being able to put on a Police Camp, but admitted that is probably going to be a while down the road.
For now, he is grateful for the support that has been received from Saunders County Youth Services and area law enforcement agencies.
“I think we did a lot in a short time,” he added.
Leedom is also appreciative for the support he has received from the community. Wahoo Friends of the Library stepped up to provide lunch for the kids attending the Wahoo Police Club and First Northeast Bank of Nebraska in Ceresco sponsored the pizza lunch last week.
The Ceresco cop has noticed some differences when he patrols town now too. He said a friendly wave and a “Hey, Chilly” is often offered up now from Police Club participants. It’s the type of positive interaction he was hoping for.