Cambridge Intermediate School has implemented a new Adopt an Officer program as a way to encourage positive relationships and interactions between students and law enforcement.
CIS Principal Scott Peterson gave an update on the community involvement Adopt an Officer program during the Jan. 19 Cambridge-Isanti School Board meeting.
He explained the purpose of the program is to offer and support opportunities for law enforcement officers and intermediate school students to connect in a positive setting, with the goal being the students view police officers as being supportive and a safe resource, and also view them with respect and admiration.
Peterson cited statistics through the American Bar Association through 2013:
• The number of youth arrests for minor offenses increased (109 percent increase since 1985).
• Police are more likely to use force with youth (7.5 percent of police contact involves 16- to 19-year-olds, yet they make up 30 percent of contacts involving force).
• Detention facilities (increased by 140 percent from 1995 to 2005).
Peterson said part of the mission of CIS is that all students feel safe, secure and supported and demonstrate strong character.
Peterson said the process began in August and September and was finalized in October. The first law enforcement visits began in November and December.
“We are lucky to have great school resource officers in our schools in Cambridge and Isanti, and they are great role models for our kids,” Peterson said. “Even though we live in a great community, it’s tragic if a child’s first interaction with a police officer is during a stressful situation.”
Peterson said approximately 11 members of the Cambridge Police Department are participating along with 20 from the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office, including officers, jailers, dispatch and other staff.
“The interaction has created a positive impact on my staff,” said Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk. “They have been able to show public safety in a positive light in a time that public safety is not looked on so positively.”
Peterson has heard positive feedback from teachers and students on the Adopt an Officer program.
“My students found it interesting to hear about the connection between a patrol officer and the dispatcher,” said fifth-grade CIS teacher Kate Bickford. “They stressed good communication skills.”
Caulk said he’s proud that his department had so many staff members volunteer.
“I can’t be more happy with the folks from my department that stepped up to be a part of this,” Caulk said. “I’ve seen the officers’ faces light up when they talk about their school visit, and one of my patrol sergeants has a picture on his desk of the class that he visited.”
Peterson said the teachers come up with different ways to have the visit also reinforce reading and writing skills; he said some teachers have the students write up a summary after the visit, and some teachers have students write out questions in advance of the visit.
“This program is a reminder to our students that we have police officers out there every day trying their best to keep us safe,” Peterson said. “I think these visits are making a real positive impact with our students, whether it’s their first, second or even third interaction with an officer. I’m pretty excited about the Adopt an Officer program and it’s been a very positive experience for us.”