- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - There was a lot of giggling coming from a downstairs classroom at the Civic Center Wednesday morning.

But the lesson being taught in the Evansville Police Department instruction space was a serious one. As part of the Choose Not To Lose Camp, the campers who are going into the fifth and sixth grades got to experience how much intoxication impairs a person after putting on sets of “goofy goggles” that simulate three levels of impairment.

Students quickly found out that alcohol makes tasks such as walking in a straight line and throwing and catching a ball much more difficult.

“It was really surprising,” said 10-year-old camper Adam Smith about his “drunk” experience.

Smith, who is a student at Scott School, aspires to be a SWAT team member when he gets older and said he knew he would enjoy the camp. But he said the last three days exceeded his expectations.

“(I’ve liked) just about everything,” he said. “I expected to be a cool camp that was just all about police stuff, but when I got here it was even cooler than I thought.”

The series of three-day camps are part of a collaborative effort undertaken by the Evansville Police Department, the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s office, the Fraternal Order of Police, local schools and the county prosecutor’s office that encourages students to make good choices and get good grades. To qualify for the camps, which are free to students, prospective attendees must apply for the experience through their school and then meet certain grade and conduct standards.

“We tell them, ‘You deserve to be here because you have done what you’re supposed to do,’” said officer Jeff Worthington, one of the department’s liaison officers. He said he has worked the camp for its first three years and believes it is growing in popularity, mainly because campers tell their friends at school about their past experiences.

Like any community policing program, two of the goals of the camp is to expose participants to a “side of police work that’s realistic,” as opposed to how its portrayed on television shows; and “give students an opportunity to interact with officers in a laid-back, fun environment,” said Evansville Lt. Karla Larmore, who coordinates the program.

The camp has five 3-day sessions this summer. Each session has 30-40 students who have already been selected. A camp geared toward high school students was planned last month but was canceled due to a low number of applicants, Larmore said.

The first two days of the camp is at the FOP campground that includes a lake that the campers can swim in after lunch. The first two mornings included lessons firearms safety, crime scene investigations and K-9 demonstration. On Tuesday, campers also spent time clearing one of the camp’s cabins as part of a building search exercise that had some surprises along the way for them.

Wednesday’s camp was at the Civic Center so campers could go through the department’s interactive firearms simulator. After the lessons were complete on that last day, campers headed to Walther’s Golf & Fun for a round of miniature golf and other activities.

Officers have plenty of chances to interact with campers - both during the lessons and the leisure activities - which is a highlight of the experience for Larmore.

“My favorite part is just sitting down and talking with the kids,” she said.

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Source: Evansville Courier & Press, http://bit.ly/1M8gVZY

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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