Sienna Berger sat inside a Southold Town police car, sounding the siren as an officer supervised Thursday morning at Mitchell Park in Greenport.
The 8-year-old was one of dozens of others who got a similar opportunity and more at the Southold Police Department’s Kids Fun Fest, which returned after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
“It wasn’t safe for any of the kids or the volunteers or the instructors so just to play it safe we took the two years off and we’re back now and we’re doing really nicely,” said Arlene Klein, creative director of the Paul Drum Life Experience Project.
The two-hour fun fest, which was open to the public, provided kids an opportunity to interact with officers in several ways, from exploring the inside of the department’s command van, to seeing inside patrol cars and boat, and even the chance to be fingerprinted by officers. The event is part of the Paul Drum Life Experience Project.
Margo Devito, the director of the Village of Greenport Summer Day Camp, said it’s important to show children they can trust the police. The camp had around 37 kids in attendance, all ages 4 through 12 and separated by age group.
Photos by Melissa Azofeifa
“The children love it,” Ms. Devito said. “It’s great to see them interact with the police officers [and] not be afraid, I think it’s very important that children aren’t afraid of the police that they actually know that they can go them if they’re in trouble.”
Sharon Sailor, the owner of Front Street Station and president of the Paul Drum Life Experience — named after her son — said although the even takes months of planning, seeing the children’s joy makes the effort worth it.
“The planning is definitely worth it when you see the happy faces,” she said. “Everyone gets to interact to see the equipment, do everything, speak with the officers and really start to build a good rapport. That’s what we’re looking for, to let the community know that we’re here with them and for them.”
The organization works to enrich children’s lives through hands-on experiences. They host an eight-week summer program free to children ages 7-12.
Some events the organization has coming up include Plaster Masks and Painting, Creatures of the Night: Quogue Wildlife Refuge and more. Those interested in registering may contact [email protected], according to a program schedule from the organization.
A K-9 demonstration culminated the event and was the crowd favorite.
Southold officer Shawn Williams, Southampton Village police officer James Moore and Riverhead police officer John Morris delighted the crowd with demonstrations from their partners, K-9 Topper, K-9 Solo and K-9 Loki.
The claps from the crowd and the K-9’s barks could be heard all through Mitchell Park as the police officers demonstrated their dogs talents in attacking when necessary, narcotics detection and more.
“It’s a good event, it’s a good opportunity for our officers to interact,” said Southold Chief Martin Flatley. “We want them to come down here and join us. It’s open to the whole town.”