OUR VIEW: OPD’s PAL Camp is best Interaction

It’s great news that the Odessa Police Department’s Police Athletic League (PAL) camp is in such high demand that they had to add an entire second camp this summer.

This type of hands-on and personal interaction between law enforcement and local youth helps cement relationships and make officers more accessible and real to youngsters who may not always see them as friendly faces.

The summer camp has been expanded to include two sessions this summer to welcome even more campers, in the camp’s 26th summer of bringing local youth together daily for activities, exercises and fun in the sun.

This year, after several summers of 60-child, one-month camps filling up fast and quickly closing registration, the program has doubled in scope, now supporting a full camp running throughout June and another with about 60 other campers running through July.

Both camps filled up and now about 120 local kids will have the chance to enjoy weekdays filled with tug-of-war, kickball, playground time and more at Floyd Gwin, plus afternoon field trips to pools and the bowling alley and others, while connecting with officers like Cpl. Michael Hamilton, who’s in his fifth summer along with Sgt. Jon Foust, the camp’s executive director and coordinator.

“I’m really excited about this summer,” said Foust, who’s in his 17th year running the PAL camp and 20th year involved in it. “I’m really excited about the direction and the progress that we’re making with these kids.”

Camp sessions run daily for four weeks with OPD officers spending part of their shifts with campers and others coming in to volunteer time.

We agree with Hamilton that more time invested into the camps means investing more in the youth of Odessa. We’re also proud that Foust said working with the kids is the most rewarding part of police work he’s been involved in.

That’s a great thing to hear from law enforcement in these times of misunderstandings and finger pointing around the country during often tragic encounters between youth and police.

In Lubbock, just recently, what was supposed to be a fun water fight turned into an ugly ordeal with an officer being assaulted by what appeared to be young people.

We believe endeavors like PAL make it less likely that misunderstandings and issues will come up between law enforcement and young people.

It’s a great program with a long history and we appreciate those officers who spend not only part of their shifts working with youth or even volunteering after hours.