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Program still helps build relationships

While it seems like a lot of the stories involving police interactions with the public go wrong, it’s always worth remembering that those are the exceptions, and the vast majority of the women and men in law enforcement are interested in making a positive difference in the lives of those who live in the communities they serve.

We saw another example of that a few weeks ago when the fifth-annual Cops-N-Bobbers Youth Fishing event was held in Bloomingdale.

It’s a program with a simple set of goals: To teach kids how to fish, enable them to connect with the outdoors and to develop positive relationships with law enforcement and other safety officers.

The local program traces its origins to 2015, when Bruce Palmer, a teacher and coach at Toronto High School and a former Youngstown police officer and Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy, was looking for a way to create positive interaction between law enforcement officers and students. That’s when he and the Jefferson County Drug Task force partnered to bring the national program to Toronto Junior-Senior High School.

Funding comes from the Toronto Police Department and the task force in the form of money seized during drug investigations.

Nearly 100 students participated in this year’s event, and they were able to connect with teachers, police officers, members of the drug task force, state wildlife officers, sheriff’s deputies and troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol who demonstrated how to bait hooks, cast a line and reel in fish.

They also were able to use the relaxed setting to get to know the students and work toward building relationships, while discussing the importance of staying away from drugs and crime — all while enjoying a day fishing.

Participants also learned about the harm litter can do to wildlife and the environment.

Providing a safe community outlet for kids and working to establish trust, mutual respect and teamwork with police officers while building a strong community — those are standards the Cops-N-Bobbers program continues to meet on a yearly basis.

It’s good to know that officials with the Toronto police and the task force plan to support the event for years to come, building relationships and a stronger community one baited hook and one cast at a time.

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