Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders: Fishing With A Purpose!

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A Hartford City Police officer shares a smile with a young angler who just caught his first fish!

A Hartford City Police officer shares a smile with a young angler who just caught his first fish!

National Police Week starts, Jennifer Lapis, Visitor Services Manager at Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in New England, tells us about a great program that combines fishing and community outreach. She took the photos, too!

At first glance, a large group of police officers walking around a city park may lead people to think the worst. But this spring in the cities of Springfield, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, a park crowded with cops was met with squeals, smiles and laughs from the young community members who participated in the Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders Youth Fishing Program.

This recreational fishing program is designed to teach kids to fish, connect them with the outdoors and develop positive relationships with law enforcement and safety officials within their communities. Building these relationships, both with nature and members of their community, are critical building blocks for these kids as they meet next-generation challenges.

These Hartford Fire Department cadets teach the kids how to cast before they head to the water to fish.

These Hartford Fire Department cadets teach the kids how to cast before they head to the water to fish.

For many of these urban youth, the Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders event is the first time they have held a fishing rod, or even have seen a live fish up close. These adventurous new anglers go from being squeamish and scared of a worm or fish, to putting bait on a hook and proudly holding their prized catch for a photo.

The police, firefighters and other partners involved in the programs are on the front lines, helping bait hooks, cast lines and reel in fish. Today, we all too often see the contentious relationships between community members and police officers. The Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders events provide safe and nonviolent community outlets for kids, with goals of establishing trust, mutual respect and teamwork to build a community that everyone can be proud to consider home.

The Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders events in both Springfield and Hartford would not have been possible without the contributions of many partners: City police, fire and parks departments; state wildlife and angler education agencies; nonprofit community organizations; and the federal government all played an important role in making these events a success for everyone. In addition, grants and generous donations enabled each kid with rod and reel o take home, as well as tackle boxes and a commemorative T-shirt.

After a fun day of fishing, the Hartford team gathers together for a photo.

After a fun day of fishing, the Hartford team gathers together for a photo.

The Silvio O Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is honored to share the commitments of all our partners, and we look forward to continuing the programs, and perhaps even expanding into other communities.