FRONT ROYAL – Attendees of the Warren County Sheriff’s Summer Youth Camp learned a valuable lesson on Wednesday — do not run from police officers.
During a Special Operations Tac Team demonstration at the camp, a mock arrest took place in which a suspect fled after being pulled over. Flashbangs were deployed and the fleeing suspect was soon taken down by a canine officer as “ohs and awes” disseminated throughout the crowd of onlooking campers. The campers then toured the Special Operations Tac Team’s Bearcat vehicle.
Sheriff’s Office Investigator and Camp Director Ray Fogle said the demonstration is one of many ways the camp, which is held at the Northern Virginia 4-H Center, attempts to mingle law enforcement and camp atmospheres.
Other law enforcement-related activities in campers participated in during the four-day camp, which is free and run off donations, included learning investigative techniques to solve a staged crime in which the 4-H library was trashed.
To solve the crime, Fogle said the campers learned how to gather evidence, process it and conduct interviews.
While the kids do learn about some operational aspects of law enforcement, Fogle said the goal is not to create future police officers “but to say, hey, this is what we do.”
He said the counselors aim to keep campers busy from their 7 a.m. wake-up call through bedtime with fun activities including campfires, fishing, a scavenger hunt, a trip to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, swimming, canoeing, archery and more.
Fogle said the camp was initiated in 2004 by former Sheriff Daniel McEathron with the intention of establishing a connection between law enforcement and local youth. He said the goal was to let kids “know that we’re here to help you.”
Since it began, Fogle said over 500 campers in fifth through seventh grades have attended for an experience that is not forgotten. He said on several occasions past campers have approached him in public to reminisce about the camp “and they’re taller than me now.”
Campers had different responses regarding their favorite aspects of camp. One thing they all agreed on, however, was that the food was good.
James Governale, 11, of Front Royal, said “everything” about the camp was fun, pointing specifically to zip-lining and canoeing.
Josh Carroll, 13, of Front Royal said the camp provided an opportunity to get involved in activities he would not normally choose, and “it is nice to try new things.”
“Normally, when I’d be at my house, I wouldn’t want to go outside and do anything but while I’m here everything has been really fun and interesting,” he said.
William O’Brian, 11, and Wyatt McDonald, 11, both of Front Royal, said their favorite part of the camp was canoeing and swimming.
Nicky Dunford, 13, of Front Royal, said that while enjoyed all of the fun activities, he liked establishing new friendships that will last after the camp. He said he also enjoyed learning how a sheriff’s office operates, including the investigative aspect such as the ins and outs of fingerprinting.
Nicky said he “didn’t want to come at first,” but his mother insisted and she was right to do so because “it turned out to be a lot of fun.”
Fogle seconded that and said: “I just love to have fun with them, love to make them laugh” and “it’s just a good time.”