PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Summer camp. The memories can last a lifetime, right?
Well, consider the experience for a handful of young people participating in a special summer camp run by the Camden County Police Department. They got a chance to get what few of us ever get to see. An up close and personal look at what the FBI is really all about.
Seven members of the Blue Knights program got to talk to agents in the Philadelphia office and take a tour of the place. These kids have dreams of going into law enforcement or the military.
Sixteen-year-old Dominic Collins, who moved from Camden to Philadelphia, stayed in the group in large part because his elders are cops themselves.
“Honestly I didn’t really think cops were bad,” Collins told KYW Newsradio. “I just didn’t know what they’d really done and I saw this opportunity so I decided to take it and see what they do.”
While Collins chose to take part, 11-year-old Carmi Jackson of Camden didn’t have much of a choice.
“My dad was like you’re going to this new program. And I went OK,” he said. But he later conceded it was a good call “because it’s fun and I get to meet new people.”
On this particular day, they got to meet several agents including Greg Branch, a Camden native who helps in recruiting new talent for the agency. He sees sessions like this as a good introduction for young people who see the FBI dramatized on television.
“Coming up in Camden, I didn’t really have an opportunity to meet a FBI agent and I think it’s great that they get to come here and to interact and to see the office and to find out about federal law enforcement,” Branch said.
The kids got to see some equipment up close and learn what it takes to be an agent, including 21 weeks of training. The kids winced when they were shown on training day in which trainees were doused with pepper spray.
Some two dozen kids take part in the program, which could well plant the seeds for budding careers in public service, according to Blue Knights organizer
Brenda Santiago, a Camden County police detective.
“They’re all maturing,” she said. “They all have these high aspirations and hopefully we’ll get them to exactly where it is that they want to be.”