Camp C.O.P.S. means fierce but friendly competition

After a day of feverish heat, all 120 campers were ready for a battle.

They set down their hats and water bottles and lined up in their separate formations, red, blue, green and yellow. Their squad leaders stood before them ready to lead the charge. And then they raised their water guns and jumped into the fray.


The water battle was the capstone of the third day of camp C.O.P.S., a day camp in its 21st year in Carroll County. Law enforcement agencies come together to organize the day camp every year, and the theme is in the acronym: Courage to be Outstanding with Pride and Self-Confidence (C.O.P.S.)

The Taneytown Police Department, the Westminster Police Department, the Maryland State Police, the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office sent more than 20 members to be mentors and team leaders for the campers.

To track who was winning the water battle, each of the campers had a small sticker of water-soluble paper attached to their shirt. When it was dissolved, they were out. The Westminster Volunteer Fire Department was also on hand doing double duty, keeping track of campers’ safety in the heat and then bringing the biggest artillery of all to the water battle. At the end, they sprayed their fire hose in the air over the field, making sure everyone was drenched.

Earlier in the day, campers learned about traffic stops and went toe-to-toe in inflatable jousting. Other activities throughout the week include a visit from an MSP helicopter, safe handling and shooting practice with BB guns and a cornhole competition while wearing drunk goggles.

The county’s bomb squad visited Tuesday with their K-9 to speak to the campers, but unfortunately for those in attendance, real life called them away when they responded to a suspicious package in Westminster.

Businesses and service organizations from around the county helped the camp with donations.

Kerry Kelly, squad leader of the green team, and teammate Will Coyne agreed that the water gun battle was one of the things they looked forward to the most.

“It’s aggressive competition, but there’s sportsmanship," Kelly said.

Coyne said he was drawn to join the camp after years of visiting on the last day to see his siblings graduate. “Every day, they’d come home with new stories,” he said.

Matt Hamm, who was later named the top male jouster for the yellow team, said he wanted to come back to the camp a second year because, he said, “I had a lot of fun and it made me respectful.”

The jousting competition was especially fierce because the points were being tracked, and the team with the most would be awarded the Camp C.O.P.S. cup at the end of the week.

While that was challenging, the main challenge of the week was to get the teammates to work together, he said. Almost all campers agreed the physical training was one of the toughest parts of the camp.

Red team leader TFC Mark Klinger didn’t regret challenging the campers, however. The things they accomplish when they are outside of their comfort zones give them the strongest satisfaction.

“They push themselves to their limits, and they succeed,” he said.


Auxiliary Sgt. Deborah Pujals Keyser said the team-building during the week is exciting to watch.

“On Monday, they come in as individuals,” she said. But through an intense week of physical challenges and healthy competition, the teams come together into the cheering bunches that gathered around to cheer their champions in the jousting match.

Said Keyser: “It’s a total transformation.”