Officers use COP Houses to build stronger communities

MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. – Rachel Gardinier, Mt. Pleasant Police Officer, spends a lot of time with the kids.

“A lot of them come from single-family homes and working family homes,” she says. “So they don’t get a lot of attention like they do here.”

Officer Gardinier works at the Mt. Pleasant COP House. COP stands for Community Oriented Policing.

“We work with the community and help them meet their needs and we work with them to build relationships of trust,” she says.

One of the big needs is after-school programming for neighborhood children. Gardinier says she and her partner at COP House offer reading and writing programs, summer play camps and even dinner parties.

“We like to go fishing with them, participate in sports games with them,” says Gardinier. “We just try to keep them very active.”

The Mt. Pleasant COP House is the newest in the area. There are six others right next to Racine.

Sergeant James Pettis of the Racine Police Department says officers are stationed at these homes for several years at a time.

“You have the opportunity to build a positive relationship through positive interaction with children and with community members,” he says.

Each home has a slightly different approach and agents don’t just work with children. sergeant. Pettis says COP House officers have helped resolve long-standing disputes between neighbors and helped people deal with complaints from landlords. Community partners like Orchestrating Good have provided homes with free food pantries and back-to-school haircut events.

Pettis says community policing work like this has powerful results. So powerful, the officers of COP House have made their playbook available online for other cities and towns that feel they could benefit from this policing approach.

“Impactful, long-standing,” he says. “This is not a temporary solution to reducing crime and improving quality of life. It’s a sustainable, long-term solution for us here.

And Officer Gardinier says she might be more affected than the children – she thinks of them all the time.

“You don’t just come to work. I don’t just work from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.,” she says. “I know when all their birthdays are, I know when their football games are, their basketball games, their football games. Even if I’m not working, I’ll be there to support them, because that’s my relationship with them.

Because at the end of the day, that’s serving the community.

“That’s, yes, all I’ve been a policeman for,” says Gardinier.

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