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Fun with cops

It was hard to tell who was working harder running around the obstacle course at the youth police camp Monday, June 4: the kids or the cops.

Had there been an award for most determined, Fond du Lac Sgt. Casey Rennquist certainly would have been in the running, since he completed nearly a dozen laps as he ran with different children, encouraging them and showing them the way.

That's exactly what police camp was designed to do.

"A lot of the times that kids have an interaction with the police, it's because there's something bad going on in their lives," said Cloquet Police Chief Jeff Palmer, explaining why the outreach to youth is important. "This way they can see us in a positive light, so it's not so negative when we do show up. And so kids feel they can come up and talk to us when they see us."

The first-ever camp was bustling Monday with nearly 50 kids ages 9-12 running around Veterans Park on their first day of camp, along with many adults — most of them police officers — manning each station of the obstacle course.

The kids spent Monday morning meeting police officers from the Cloquet and Fond du Lac police departments, along with two K-9 officers, as well as the Carlton County Mounted Posse and even Border Patrol officials. They also examined various police vehicles.

"It's been crazy busy," Cloquet Police Officer Laci Silgjord said. "But interesting to get everyone together. And it's a really nice mixture of kids."

As for the kids, most seemed to agree that the first day of camp was "fun."

"All my friends said it would be good," Elijah Erickson, 9, agreed. "So I joined. I love it."

Young Jemma Palmer took a slightly different view of the day.

"It's good for learning about police and what they do and how they do it," said the police chief's daughter. "I like this camp because I can learn a lot of stuff. And I can spend some time with my dad."

A former school resource officer, Chief Palmer said he came up with the idea for the camp after looking at other outreach programs around the country. Then he called new Fond du Lac Police Chief Herb Fineday to see if they wanted to partner on the program.

"We hope to make it an annual event," Palmer said. "We'll see how it goes."

The kids went Tuesday, June 5, to the "Show Dogs" movie about a detective and his K-9 partner going undercover at the world's most exclusive dog show. They then went to the tribal center.

On Wednesday, June 6, they took a field trip to Hartley Nature Center in Duluth.

They are headed to a health fair and the museum on the Fond du Lac Reservation on Thursday, June 7, then they will take a bus to Como Zoo in St. Paul on Friday, June 8.

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