Lia Cappiello, 9, climbed onto a stationary Southold police motorcycle as a police officer supervised. She pushed a button and sounded a siren that echoed through Mitchell Park in Greenport Wednesday.
“They showed us how to make it go very fast,” one of her brothers, Alessandro, 6, said.
Lia, Alessandro, and brother Christian, 2, were three of at least 150 children that attended Southold Police Kids’ FunFest, a free two-hour event in the park.
Children learned about police equipment, climbed into the Mobile Command Center, explored a patrol car, tried on police gear and even got fingerprinted with help from police detectives, highway and marine patrol officers, motorcycle and bicycle officers.
Created by Southold Town police in conjunction with nonprofit Paul Drum Life Experience Project and Greenport Village Summer Day Camp, the occasion was the second of its kind.
The organization, which works to enrich the lives of kids through hands-on experiences, according to its website, hosts an eight-week summer program free to children 7–12. The nonprofit was eager to expand the event to a wider audience this year, president of the organization Sharon Sailor said.
“Why only expose 20 kids who signed up for the class when we could expose the whole community?” she asked. “We wanted the community and the police force to come together, we want kids to know that they can … have an officer to talk to and there’s not anything to be afraid of.”
The interactive police session worked to expose kids to the benefits of local law enforcement, Arlene Klein, Creative Director of the Paul Drum Life Experience Project said.
“The officers have been so kind and generous with the kids,” she said. “It’s so the children can become familiar with the police and they understand that police are special, and they’re here to protect all of us.”
The event culminated with a demonstration from the Southold, Riverhead and Southampton K-9 corps.
Ruth Urwand of Cutchogue said the attention of the two children she was watching, Renny and Gabi Opisso, stayed on the canines during the presentation. She was excited to bring the girls to the waterfront location after she discovered the event on Facebook.
“Between our libraries and parks and beaches, we do something different every day,” she said. “I think they should see the police equipment and make that connection.”
Roughly six months of planning went into the event, police Chief Martin Flatley said.
“The kids and their counselors took advantage of everything we had to offer down here,” he said. “I think it was a success, and we’re aiming to do it again next year.”
Earlier this summer, the Paul Drum Life Experience Project hosted sign language and robot education sessions for their enrolled students.