ROCHESTER, Minn. - The newest group of future Rochester police officers is currently in training. As part of the 8-week training academy, they're volunteering this week with local organizations such as the Salvation Army, Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, and the Women's Shelter. The Beyond the Badge initiative dates back to 2019.
"Beyond the Badge program will help to introduce the new officers to those key community contacts and key community organizations that they will likely work with in the future and throughout their career. So we're trying to get them introduced, get them volunteering, get them to know the people that work here, the people that they help and service," explains Lt. Paul Gronholz, who leads training and services.
KIMT News 3 followed two of the recruits volunteering at the Salvation Army. Every year, recruits can help with tasks such as answering phones or shadowing caseworkers. This week, the future officers are helping the Salvation Army prepare to give away coats collected at its coat drive.
"It's just really important that we reach out to these people and show them that we're not here to hurt them. We're here to help them," says Joel Jenet, one of the recruits.
"We actually get to work with the community in a capacity that isn't being a police officer which is important to try to really humanize the badge and get people to see us for more than being in law enforcement and that we share their values as well," adds Harrison Bray, another recruit.
Beyond the Badge establishes human connections and relationships right off the bat of the recruits' training and careers, so that police and organizations like the Salvation Army can work together in the future.
"It's really good to come here for another reason other than responding to a police call. They get to know some of these people. They get to know our services. And then when the day comes that they may have to visit here, they've got a really good working knowledge of what we do and how we do it. So I think it's a really good learning experience for them to kind of see things when there's no pressure going on," says Major Lisa Mueller of the Rochester Salvation Army.
Winter coat pick-up is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, October 14.