INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Officers have said over and over that breaking a cycle of violence is critical to curbing crime in Indianapolis.
For the second time, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is using the summer break to reach at-risk kids. This year the three-week camp lands during a critical time when Hoosiers are seeing an uptick in violence and tensions are rising between neighborhoods and police. Officers who run the IMPD Boot Camp say they can use camps like this as an opportunity to bridge that gap and teach kids while they’re impressionable, that officers are here to serve and protect.
“A lot of the young adults here, they say, ‘Ya know, you guys are cool.’ I say most police officers are cool. But, when you’re on the street you got to have somewhat of a different mentality. I mean you have to because it’s about survival out there,” said IMPD Sgt. Vincent Burke.
Burke also joined the Navy when he was just 17-years-old. He said it taught him discipline, respect and how to focus. Three things he wants to use this mentorship program to pass on to at-risk youth.
“The program is fun. You’ve got to know how to do things. You’ve got to learn how to listen,” said Kristian Hunter, 15.
Some of the young men are ordered to attend the camp. Some come voluntarily. But, police actually seek out some of the teens who have been in and out of the juvenile system. Officers want to keep them out of trouble for good.
“We go door to door, knocking on the addresses of the sheets recruiting kids to come to the program. A lot of times even the kids are willing to come. I think they just want to try something different,” said Sgt. Burke.
The day starts with military style boot camp at the IMPD Police Academy led by Sgt. Burke.
“He can be pushy. He wants you to be a young man. But, yea, he’s cool,” said Rayshawn McIntosh, 14.
Then the camp heads over to the JTV Hill Center for societal discussions, teamwork activities and two free meals.
The camp also takes trips. This year, the camp took a trip to Chicago. It’s to give the kids a different perspective and get them out of Indianapolis, some, for the first time. In Chicago they stopped by the DeSable Black History Museum and took a lunch break at the famous Giordano’s Pizzeria.
“The pizza place was awesome. I got full off of two pieces!” said McIntosh.
Fun experiences and routines that are bringing officers and youth together in hopes of building trust for the future.
“Get in their lives whenever they see us they’re comfortable talking to us,” said Sgt. Burke.
“People try to say the police is so bad. But, they’re really your friend,” said McIntosh.
To let these young men know they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.
“The more you put in to something, the more you get out of it,” said Sgt. Burke.
“It really pushes you to get to where you need to be,” said McIntosh.
Sgt. Burke says the three-week program costs about $500 to $600. He says for so little money he hopes that more programs are added throughout the years. He says he’s actually working on organizing a reading club right now.