Caring On Patrol for Students (COPS) was initiated in the 2015/2016 school year at Challenger Elementary School in Thief River Falls, MN with the help of Vice Principal Mike Wienen and Little Brother/Little Sister of Pennington County. The program is intended to focus on students need during school hours through police mentoring. Police Officers volunteer their time either on or off duty to come to the school and have lunch with their student and/or play with them at recess. They are asked not to tell the students when they are coming because they may get a call and can’t show up. The students are all aware that they will show up in a surprise fashion. We have seen tremendous results from this program in the short time it’s been established. The program is open to anyone but with limited seating. Currently we have 6 students enrolled in the program with 5 officers volunteering their time. We are hopeful to expand this program as we are looking forward to the 2016/2017 school year already.
COPS was created to help show students that police officers can be a resource and that they can be someone they can trust. The officers have shown dedication beyond the streets of our community and have really opened all students’ eyes to the idea that police officers are normal and they care. The Challenger Elementary Principal, Patrick Marolt, was quoted as saying ““We have seen such a positive response from the students enrolled and other students in the school.” He also said that he is noticing a general change in student attitudes. He said that when students used to see the officers come in they would say things like ‘hey the cops are here.’ Now they say police officers.”
Police officers have a unique role to play with kids in this setting. They were initially seen as a person of authority and only coming to their school for negative reasons. After talking with some of the officers in the program they have all said they are just another person in the lunchroom. They have fun with their student and engage with others. They can encourage their student to do well in school and in life and that for this program has been one of the most successful features. Officers are even saying that they are learning from their students and are having fun doing this.
Thank you to the Thief River Falls Police Department and Pennington County Sheriff’s Department for your time commitment and dedication to these students and Little Brother/Little Sister of Pennington County.
New for the 2016/2017 school year, COPS is going to Goodridge. We are very excited for the Sheriff’s Department to spend more time with kids in the Goodridge School District hanging out and getting to now some kids.
If you would like to help support this wonderful program for either community please follow the link below. You can sponsor an officer’s lunch for a month for ($16), a year ($144), or make a general donation to the program.