SAN DIEGO — U.S. Naval Surface Force, Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) along with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), Southeastern Division, provided a fun day for more than 200 children from about 10 schools, May 23 at Gator Beach on the Naval Amphibious Base (NAB), Coronado.
The children are members of their School Safety Patrol (SSP), coming from SDPD’s Southeastern Division’s jurisdiction.
“The kids had an awesome time,” said Police Officer Gerardo Serrano, the Juvenile Services Team member of SDPD. “Originally, the schools would provide a summer camp for the SSP children, but two years ago the school had to cut funding. We thought that was unacceptable so we found other ways to reward the kids, this being one of them.”
The School Safety Patrol was established in 1935 by the SDPD and began at just one school. Its purpose was to assist elementary school children across uncontrolled intersections on their way to and from school and to reduce the number of pedestrian and bicycle collisions involving elementary-age students.
Close to 90 schools participate in the SSP program. The San Diego SSP is comprised of nearly 2,000 5th and 6th graders, whose job is to cross children and adults safely at their school locations. They are selected, trained, and supervised on an ongoing basis by Juvenile Services Team Officers from eight area stations. Their job includes controlling pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and watching for and reporting traffic violations.
“They are out there in the rain and the sun and have to put extra hours into their school work so they can keep their classmates safe, so they deserve a day of fun,” said Serrano. “However, since the school can no longer afford to fund it, we have been organizing the events using funds purely from donations.”
The children’s morning began with a tour of the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S) training grounds on NAB, and then they worked their way down the beach for lunch with the Chief Petty Officer Association (CPOA) of SURFPAC. The chiefs started preparations at 8 a.m. and by the afternoon, they were in full production making burgers and hotdogs just about as fast as the kids were pouring in.
“We wanted to show the SSP our appreciation of what they do so we (CPOA) got together with the SDPD and planned out the fun day for the children,” said Chief Personnel Specialist (EXW/AW) Dan J. Mason, SURFPAC Force Readiness Coordinator, “The CPOA provided just about everything, from food and events including a tour of USS Midway. The funding came purely from donations from all the chiefs.”
After lunch, the chiefs set up games of volleyball, tug-of-war, and a dunk-tank, where one of San Diego’s finest was set to take a dip in mildly chilly water. Police Captain Tony D. McElroy took the first throw, to show the young ones how it is done. He failed, but inspired the children to try harder to sink the officer. McElroy didn’t have to wait long to see his fellow law-enforcement officer take a dip.
At the conclusion of events on Gator Beach, the children piled on the buses to take a trip to the USS Midway (CV 41) History Museum, where the SURFPAC CPOA was already waiting to give the children a tour with a bit of Navy experience behind it.
“My favorite part of the day was on the tour of Midway, where I could explain to them the different parts of the aircrafts, as a former helicopter maintenance person,” said Mason.
The mission of SSP is to promote the safe crossing of elementary students to and from school and to provide classroom education to maximize the safety of students at all times.
“I think it’s great, from a law enforcement perspective, we have all these mini-cops out there doing jobs we can’t do, and it gives the kids a sense of belonging and structure,” said Serrano.
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