Anne Arundel, Annapolis police build bonds with community through sailing

Nabila Hinton isn’t quite sure how she feels about the police.

From her perspective, police officers seem to be about locking people up. But even so, the 14-year-old girl said she’s a fan of Cpl. Allen Marcus, who spent the weekend sailing with her on the Chesapeake Bay.

Officers from the Anne Arundel County and Annapolis police departments paired up with Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating to lead about 15 kids through a weekend sailing camp.

“When some of these kids are coming up, all they know is that nobody likes the police,” said Marcus, a 16-year veteran of the Anne Arundel department. “Now they have the chance to see us in another light — to see that we do care about them.”

Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating — or CRAB — has been running the free camp for a few years, executive director Paul Bollinger said. The group aims to provide people with disabilities, wounded veterans and disadvantaged youth opportunities to get out onto the water.

Volunteers showed the kids how to steer the boats and tie complex knots, and went over the names of the different parts of the boat.

Before heading out on the water Sunday morning, Bollinger drew a sketch of a sail boat on a dry-erase board and encouraged the kids to shout out when he was pointing to the jib, tiller or keel.

“Many of these kids have never been out on the Chesapeake Bay, which is the greatest natural resource in Maryland,” Bollinger said. “They build confidence, expand their knowledge and learn how to work as a team.”

And the bonds built with officers are of paramount importance, he said.

“When they go back into their communities and see police, it’s not ‘uh oh,’ but rather, ‘look who’s here,’” Bollinger said.

The officers picked the kids up from their homes each morning and drove them to Sandy Point State Park in their marked police cars. Eleven-year-old Justice Spiker said he enjoyed the car ride because Officer Brian Slattery let him play with the lights and use the radar gun.

“Camps like these show we’re not all about arresting people or beating them up,” Slattery said. “We’re the same as everyone else. It might give the kids the chance to see we like to have fun, too.”

On Sunday, the camp attendees employed the skills they learned the day before and took to the water to race against against each other.

Each boat was filled by a few kids, a police officer and a CRAB volunteer. The officers and the kids sported the same light-blue T-shirts, topped by life vests.

The group on Marcus’ sail boat struggled to catch a strong wind. The sailors tried different strategies to get moving.

When tensions started to heat up, the officer reminded the three kids onboard that “we’re all a team here.”

Near the end of a race, as their boat fell to second-to-last place, 13-year-old Kani Smith turned to Marcus.

“We should just give up,” he said.

“We never give up,” Marcus responded.

Watching the teamwork develop throughout the weekend was meaningful to Art Savage, a CRAB volunteer. The group held a similar camp for kids and police last month.

“You could see that after two days, they were more confident in what they were doing,” he said. “They were able to correct each other and give each other directions, like steer this way or pull that line tighter.”

During one particularly sharp turn on the boat, Smith reached out to Marcus’ hand and noticed the thick, gold band on his ring finger.

“Hey,” he asked, “can I have this ring?”

“You’d have to go through the police academy to get one of these,” Marcus said, with a smile.

trichman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/TaliRichman

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