Cops and campers bond over cool summer experiences

Sergeant Justin Debode, of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, explains how police officers use the tactical unit at ‘Camp CP With A Deputy’

Fifth-grader Alexis Lavallee decided she may become a police officer after meeting Jesse, one of 12 horses assigned to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department Mounted Patrol unit.

Fifth grader Alexis Lavallee gets to know Jesse, one of the horses in the Kent County Sheriff’s Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit

“I’d more than love to work with her,” said Alexis, one of about 45 fourth and fifth graders who attended a week-long “Camp CP With A Deputy”, sponsored by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department in June.

Jesse, a 20-year-old chestnut gelding, was a popular camp attraction.

Ritzey, part of the Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 unit, also was a go-to guest as Deputy Dale DeKorte allowed children to pet the dog, who is trained to sniff out accelerants and ignitable materials in arson investigations.

Public appearances at schools and community functions are also a large part of Ritzey’s schedule. “She loves it,” DeKorte said as campers cuddled and petted the accommodating canine.

Campers at the ‘Camp CP With A Deputy’ get to know Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Dale DeKorte and Ritzey, the arson dog

Throughout the week, activities also included show-and-tell demonstrations from the department’s Dive Team and Tactical Team, both of which showed off their equipment. The emergency medical, motorcycle and marine division visited and, deputies took campers to Craig’s Cruisers.

Thanks to donations from the Rotary Club, Community Policing of Michigan and area businesses, each camper received a T-shirt, water bottle and midday meals.

Deputy Julie Brown, Comstock Park High School school resource officer, said they organized the camp in hopes of forging a bond with campers at an early age. This marked the first time the department hosted one for elementary school children, she said.

“We want them to see us as normal folks and we’re able to see them as normal kids,” she said. “Sometimes, we only see the naughty kids.”

James Harger
James Harger reported on West Michigan's economy, courts and politics for The Grand Rapids Press and Mlive.com for more than 37 years. He also is employed as Servanthood Leader at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown Grand Rapids. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he also has worked for publications in Holland, Mount Pleasant and Lansing. He is married to Lisa and has one daughter, who lives in Ann Arbor. Read James' full bio or email James.

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