By Mitchell Clarke
Cops across Cardinia joined 160 students from schools within the shire for a program which aimed to get youth fit, healthy and interacting with police.
The Cardinia Cop Camp involved officers and students from Pakenham Secondary College, St Francis Xavier College and Minaret College training together once a week for nine weeks to prepare for a simulation of the fitness test recruits must pass to enter the Victoria Police Academy.
Leading Senior Constable Alicia Phillips said she was hopeful the interaction provided a positive experience for participants and police alike.
“The purpose of the camp was to encourage kids to participate, obviously with fitness stuff, but to also promote the police entrance exam,” LSC Phillips said.
“Police members attended the fitness camps at the same time as the students and participated in the activities.”
At the end of the camp, participants came together for a final workout to test out their times and see whether they’d be fit enough to pass the entrance exam.
“Hopefully we’ve also encouraged a few of these students to think about taking up a career in the force,” LSC Phillips added.
But the fitness aspect wasn’t the sole purpose of the program – creating positive interactions between youth and officers was a real focus point.
“It’s about the interaction with the kids and to show them that we’re approachable and that we can be approached and spoken to,” LSC Phillips said.
“Police have seen some of the students in the street and recalled those students coming up to them to say ‘I remember you from the cop camp’.”
St Francis Xavier College Beaconsfield deputy principal and head of campus Rebecca Cetrola said approximately 50 students across Year 11 and 12 were involved.
“We were very eager to participate in this initiative,” Ms Cetrola said.
“The cop camp provided the opportunity for our students to develop positive relationships with local police and to learn more about what training is required to enter and graduate from the police academy.”
The camp was delivered under the State Government’s Community Safety Network, a state-wide project to provide Victorian communities with a direct platform to discuss local crime issues and policing priorities.
Across Cardinia, youth anti-social behaviour, burglary and theft, family violence and road safety were identified as the top safety concerns of the community.