HARRISONBURG — As Peyton Deputy stood along Maryland Avenue Monday afternoon, the 12-year-old Harrisonburg resident used a radar gun to monitor the speed of passing vehicles.
It didn’t take him long to identify a speeder zooming through the 25 mph zone.
“It was pretty surprising,” Deputy said. “They all slowed down when they saw us.”
Deputy was among 14 Shenandoah Valley children to participate in Harrisonburg Police Department’s inaugural summer camp, which started Monday and runs through Friday.
The free camp — referred to as P.A.T.C.H, which stands for pride, accountability, teamwork, courage and honor — is a way to introduce children to the police department.
Sgt. Charles Grubbs said the idea of the camp is to show what it’s like to be a police officer.
“It provides youth with a behind-the-scenes look at the police department,” he said.
During the camp, children learn a variety of police tasks, including traffic stops, investigations and building searches. They also participate in K-9, drone and robot demonstrations.
Grubbs said the camp will help persuade or dissuade kids from a law enforcement career.
“It’s going to give them an opportunity to see if this is their dream job,” he said. “If it is their dream job, we have other options for them.”
He said campers can sign up for the department’s Explorers program, which is designed to give teens an ongoing role in helping and learning about the police department.
Grubbs’ daughter, Riley Dorton, 13, of Waynesboro, participated in the camp.
She said she’s considering a career in law enforcement.
She got a chance to fiddle with drones and radar guns, but said her favorite part so far is interacting with police.
“I like talking to the officers and seeing what their favorite parts are,” she said.
Ethan Wince-Pfamatter, 14, of Broadway, wants to be a Virginia state trooper when he grows up. He said he’s most interested in learning about the SWAT team.
“I thought this would be a good way to see what they do,” he said.
The camp was part of Chief Eric English’s initiative to get youth involved in police programs.
English said he approached his community resource officers about involving more youth and they developed the curriculum for the camp.
He said the camp has a variety of benefits, including introducing children to police officers. He said he wants people to know that police officers aren’t always like how they are portrayed on television.
“I want our citizens to know who their police officers are,” he said.