FALMOUTH — Nine-year-old Hadleigh McPartlan, her red hair tied in a ponytail, put her hands in front of her face and stood ready.

“Now remember, when I yell, ‘Go!’ you all raise your hands and yell, ‘No!’ as loud as you can,” said Portland police Officer Coreena Behnke, addressing Hadleigh and the 17 other youngsters Tuesday attending Cop Camp, a new Falmouth summer program.

On Behnke’s signal, Hadleigh raised her arms to fend off repeated strikes by Behnke, using a paddle with the word “blocker” printed on it. Hadleigh bellowed “No!” at the top of her lungs while blocking each strike.

“It wasn’t hard, it was fun” said Hadleigh, of Portland, after her self-defense lesson was done. Hadleigh said she was at the camp because she wants to a K-9 officer when she grows up.

The inaugural Cop Camp, being offered this week as part of the Falmouth Community Programs slate of summer camps, is a rare opportunity for kids ages 8 to 11 to spend a week with police learning about what they do. Activities range from marching and self-defense to watching trained dogs (known as K-9s in police parlance) and police robots. And every day the campers get a talk from a local police chief. Falmouth’s chief, Edward Tolan, was in Tuesday to talk about courage.

“It’s great to be able to offer something so specific, that really keeps their interest,” said Kate Harris, recreation coordinator for Falmouth. “At other summer camps the kids dabble in a lot of different things.”

The focus of the camp is on the real jobs police officers do, but presented in a way that might capture the interest of a child. On Monday, for instance, the children got to try on a K-9 suit, the kind people wear when training dogs to fend off bites. On Wednesday, they’ll watch a police evidence technician demonstrate how to swab for DNA. And on Friday, they’ll see a police robot in action, the kind sent in to retrieve suspected bombs.

Cop Camp started as an offhand comment by Portland Police Officer Andy Hagerty, whose two sons, Rowen, 9, and Quinn, 11, regularly attend Falmouth’s summer camps. When Hagerty learned that the summer camp schedule was being cut from seven to six weeks because of a later end to the school year, he joked to Harris that she ought to have a “cop camp.” Harris loved the idea, if Hagerty would run it.

So during the winter and early spring, Hagerty began lining up other officers to help him run the camp, as well as the various chiefs and police specialists who are making special appearances all week long. Hagerty considers the camp a pilot program that might be expanded in the future. The camp costs $69 for residents and $74 for non-residents and runs daily this week only from 8:45 a.m. to noon. Campers from five towns attend. The camp is being held at the Mason-Motz Activity Center on Middle Road.

When setting up the camp, Hagerty got an enthusiastic response from area police, at least partly because they don’t get a lot of similar invitations. There aren’t many, if any, town summer camps focusing on police work.

On Monday, for instance, police K-9 trainers from around the area showed up with 10 dogs. On Thursday Hagerty is expecting at least two SWAT teams to give demonstrations.

“The kids will be able to wear the helmets and talk to each other” on helmet radios, Hagerty said.

Wearing their blue T-shirts with “Cop Camp 2015” across the front, camp attendees Tuesday ran an obstacle course designed to replicate the ones used for police in training.

Brandon White, 8, of Falmouth, wore a U.S. Marines cap as he tore through the course, crawling under sawhorses, jumping over benches, and weaving around orange cones. When he was done, he was only slightly winded. He had plenty of energy left when it came time to yell, “No!” at top volume during the self-defense session.

“I’m here because I want to be a cop,” Brandon said. “This is fun.”


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