Bristol Police camp strives to build a community of leaders

Bristol police department’s second annual youth camp once again a hit among students 

By Kristen Ray
Posted 8/22/19

They tested their wits while investigating a crime scene, pushed their boundaries while climbing their way through a ropes course. With every passing day, they challenged both their minds and their …

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Bristol Police camp strives to build a community of leaders

Bristol police department’s second annual youth camp once again a hit among students 

Posted

They tested their wits while investigating a crime scene, pushed their boundaries while climbing their way through a ropes course. With every passing day, they challenged both their minds and their bodies just a little bit further, making memories along the way.

By the time the week was over, they had built themselves an arsenal, taking the skills and relationships they developed along with them as they carried on their way.

That was the goal behind the Bristol Police Department’s second annual Youth Leadership Camp, graduating 40 fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders this past Friday, Aug. 16.

“It’s two-fold,” said interim chief of police Brian Burke. “It’s to teach them lessons, and it’s also to build our relationship with the students and the community.”

Originally masterminded by Lt. Steven St. Pierre, this year’s weeklong program — nearly double in size, targeted toward students transitioning into their middle school days — was largely facilitated by him and officer Keith Medeiros, with the help of officers Rachael Gaffney, Kyle Batista and Josh Roza.

Beginning last Monday, they guided campers through a wide range of physical and intellectual activities, each designed to drive a different concept home. From leadership and honesty, respect and integrity, courage and teamwork, each new theme built upon the previous others, reinforcing their importance with each passing day.

While many of the tasks were fun, they were not always easy — whether it was testing their bravery during Thursday’s excursion to a ropes course in Connecticut, or challenging their ability to collaborate throughout Friday’s crime scene investigation — officers were impressed by the campers’ strength and determination. To their delight, some of the older kids, having already gone through the program once, even acted as mentors, helping their younger peers along.

“We don’t have to give them a ton of encouragement, a ton of support, because the kids themselves are giving them that support,” said Lt. St. Pierre.

That peer-to-peer relationship is a philosophy the department plans to nurture as they move forward and continue to grow the program further. Though they are somewhat limited by the time and resources they have available, the officers are confident that their “monster marchers” will continue on with their mission, sharing everything they learned with their classmates during the new school year.

At the end of the day, that was what the camp was all about — not to become a police officer, but to use those concepts to build confidence and make good decisions, while helping others to do the same.

“Whatever course your life takes you, you’re going to need these skills,” said Lt. St. Pierre.

Yet it is also his, and the rest of the department’s hope, that the campers additionally remember the bonds that they formed with each of the participating officers, knowing that there is always support there.

“We are human,” said Capt. Scott McNally. “We’re not robots, we’re not stuffed shirts. We’re people … we’re part of the community, as much as you people are.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.