Kids find summer structure at Camp C.O.P.S.

One way to get the complete attention of a group of 10-14 year-olds is to land a helicopter next to them.

On the last day of Camp C.O.P.S., on Friday, July 20, they brought in two as crews from the Maryland State Police and the Maryland Natural Resources Police landed on the grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum before spending a few hours talking with campers about their work.


These were just two of the local law enforcement organizations involved in the 20th year of the week-long Camp C.O.P.S. — Courage to be Outstanding with Pride and Self-Confidence. Around 100 campers spent the week learning skills and teamwork and what its like for members of the law enforcement profession.

The Mount Airy, Westminster and Taneytown Police Departments, the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office were among the groups that led the red, green, blue and yellow teams in healthy competition.

Parents and families were invited to join Friday as the campers demonstrated their drills were awarded at a graduation ceremony.

Red team leaders, Troopers Mark Klinger and Kevin Mowers spoke about how the week asks campers to “step out of their comfort zones” on a week that might otherwise have been spent playing video games. If they work hard all week, they’ll be rewarded for their accomplishment in front of their friends and family.

Campers come in at all levels, but they learn and train as a team.

“Some of these kids have never done a push-up in their lives,” Klinger said.

The drills were taught by members of the Army National Guard, and then it was up to the teams to practice, though Guard members might stop in to give extra pointers if a group needed more help.

On Friday, they brought two Humvees to the Farm Museum, playing upbeat music from the speakers, and let campers sit in the vehicles and get “that hands-on feeling” said Sgt. Kimberly Kline.

Parent Julie Muse, of Westminster said her daughter, Jocelyne, had participated in the camp more than once

“It’s great to give them something to do in the summer … and its open to everybody,” she said.

Activities during the week included flying law enforcement drones, learning firearms safety and shooting BB guns, practicing archery and a watching a Sheriff’s Office K-9 demonstration.

The K-9 demo was a favorite for many campers.

Green team member Becky Krumbacker particularly enjoyed it because she got to watch the K-9 chomp down on the camp leaders after they put them through a particularly difficult round of PT.

She learned about the program from her mother, who is retired from the police after more than 30 years, she said.


“I’m definitely going to come back,” said teammate Bobby Lord.

Riece Balwin, of Westminster, a member of the blue team, said his favorite activity was getting to fly the expensive drones and use them to take photos. Another was a water gun fight, which the Hampstead volunteer fire company helped to organize.

Cpl. Jeremy Holland of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, who helped to lead the yellow team said that after their first day of camp where they placed first in tug of war, the team had “definitely come a long way since.”

Throughout the week, it was a working process to come together, he said.

Parent Michelle Leone, of Sykesville, said the camp was a chance for kids with family members in law enforcement and those without to get a taste of the industry.

Red team leaders said the group of kids was one of the best they’ve had in several years.

They showed teamwork “every day, even on the very first day,” Klinger said.

MSP First Sgt. Dave Keller said one of the true signs of success for the program is when campers age out and want to continue returning as counselors for younger kids.

One former camper who showed outstanding leadership was Jessica Belknap, who participated in the camp when she was was young and went on to join the Young Marines and graduate from South Carroll High School. Belknap was killed at age 19 by an intoxicated driver in 2011.

Each year, a camper is chosen by camp directors to be honored with the Jessica Belknap Leadership Award. This year Michael Pellegrino, of Westminster, a blue team member was honored.

Pellegrino, a first-timer, said his family heard about the camp from a friend. His mother thought it would be a great opportunity. His favorite activity of the week was learning safety and marksmanship with BB guns.

Putting the camp together is a collaborative effort, said one of the camp’s directors Master Deputy Worthington Washington of the Sheriff’s Office.

“Everybody’s come together,” he said. “I couldn’t do this without all the help and the community.”

The key to making the most of camp is being persistent and not complaining.

“If [you] strike out, you’ve just got to keep going and going in order to be successful,” he said.