In the spirit of forging a stronger bond between the Lawton community and the police who protect them, the Lawton Police Department hosts the annual Cops and Kids Picnic each September. One of the main goals of the picnic is to help bridge the gap between police and citizens that often occur as misconceptions like “the Police will take you to jail if you misbehave” are passed from generation to generation. In an effort to show that police are people too, Lawton Police Officers will participate in fun and games with kids and parents alike this September 12 from 11 am-2 pm at Elmer Thomas Park.
“One of the most challenging parts of my job,” Officer Charles Whittington explained, “is when parents use the police as a threat to get their kids to behave. I can’t stand when people tell their kids that the police will take them away if the kids don’t behave.”
“We want the kids and their families to know that we are here for them and that we are people too,” Officer Ulysses Henderson added.
Officer Whittington and Officer Henderson represent the Community Oriented Policing Division of the Lawton Police Department. One of their main focuses is to serve the Lawton Community through outreach services that help spread goodwill and further community relations with local residents. The Community Oriented Policing Division was designed to allow police officers like Officer Whittington and Officer Henderson to speak with local organizations like neighborhood watch groups and area schools without pulling officers off of routine and emergency calls.
Efforts like the Cops and Kids Picnic help to show the community that police work is not just about arresting the bad guys and issuing tickets. Instead, attendees can expect to enjoy a fun-filled day with their kids, their neighbors and their friends.“We’ve had tremendous support from local businesses,” Officer Henderson said. “We have a long list of supporters who help provide food, drinks, prizes and volunteers to help make the day a success.”
In addition to the food and drinks donated by vendors like Discount Foods, kids will be able to make birdhouses with the staff of Home Depot. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge will bring artifacts and teach kids about the animals that live in the area. There will be face-painting, dunk tanks, moon bounces, a petting zoo, and a rock climbing wall. Some organizations have donated gift items like bicycles, games, gift cards and toys. Every child who arrives will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win one of many prizes throughout the day.
In addition to business support, the Lawton Police Department will be joined by local Fire Department with the Fire Department’s Smokehouse and by police officers from surrounding communities with police car rides and stationary police cars on display.
“Last year,” Officer Whittington said, “all of our rookie Police Officers were dunked in the dunk tank.”
The August 29 Poker Run, sponsored by the Fort Sill Apache Casino, was one of many examples of the ways that local businesses support the effort to bring citizens and police officers together.
“It’s too hard to name every business who has donated time, money, or people,” Officer Henderson said. “I just want to thank everyone who helped and say thank you to all of the businesses that have helped keep this going even in such hard economic times.”
For more information about assisting with the Cops and Kids Picnic, please contact Officer Whittington at 704-6573 or 581-3500.