Establishing a bond between the police and a community often begins with children. The One Community program was formed through a partnership of area organizations and endeavors to do just that.
The Cops and Kids Foundation has teamed up with the Milwaukee Admirals, the Wauwatosa, Milwaukee and Waukesha police departments and local businesses in an effort to bring people of all colors, ages, religions and orientations together. Bringing kids together with officers to take them to a hockey game, fishing, bowling or archery is a good start in achieving those lofty goals.
Making a difference
"The campaign came together because there has been a lot of tension between members of the community and law enforcement," Cops and Kids President Bob Kraemer said. "A lot of people have been in the media with talk of how to fix the problem. We decided to do something about it. We are doing this to try and make a difference in the community."
In an effort to build his new program and ensure the kids are engaged, Kraemer approached the Admirals over the summer regarding One Community. President Jon Greenberg said it was a very easy program for his hockey club to get behind.
"Giving back to our community is essential to our success because people give so much to us," Greenberg said. "Anytime we have law enforcement trying to build relationships with kids and we can help be a part of that in a positive way that is something that we want to do. This program just seemed to be a really good fit."
Prior to getting on board with One Community, the Admirals were already heavily involved with the law enforcement community. The team holds an annual "Battle of the Badges" hockey game between officers and firefighters, they host children at their games, and players are wearing special "first responders jerseys" for a game during the current season. The jerseys will be auctioned off for charity after the game.
"We often ask the players if they were not a hockey player what would they want to do and they often answer they would want to be in law enforcement," Greenberg said. "When we can pair those players up with the kids that come out it is an awesome thing to see."
Cops and Bobbers
After it was founded in 2011 by Kraemer, the Cops and Kids Program began with Cops and Bobbers and the first police department to get on board was in Waukesha. Sgt. Gerald Habanek of the Waukesha Police Department said he feels fortunate to have his organization involved.
"We get out on the water in a pontoon boat and the ride out is quiet," Habanek said. "Then the magic starts and the officers bait the hooks and they help the kids catch fish. After a little bit of fishing there is a lot of talking. Then they sit on a pier and have some popsicles and the kids can’t stop talking."
Kids find their way to the program through Facebook, park and recreation involvement and recommendations from anyone who feels the child needs assistance. Habanek said his officers are trained to spot kids that they feel might be a good fit and sometimes they are a child of a parent that was arrested.
Tosa PD joins effort
The Wauwatosa Police Department became involved in the Cops and Kids Foundation in 2015 when officer Dan Kane was moved into the community policing officer position.
“I had heard about the program when I was a patrolman and I let Bob know it was something I was interested in," Kane said. "So I donated some homemade baits that I make as an offering to him. I think the most important thing is it allows kids to see us in an off-duty type setting. Once they see us in other settings, it separates us from the uniform and lets (the kids) see us as people."
Habanek said he thinks the Admirals are a great organization and bringing the kids to a game provides entertainment and adds a lot of value to what the foundation is doing.
"We are all one. People and police and that’s what I like about this “One Community” program," Habanek said. "No matter what color or creed you are, we are all one."
To get involved
To purchase a wristband that helps to fund the One Community program, a person can go to the website copsandkidsfoundation.org or stop by the locations listed on the website. In Waukesha, the bands are available at Waukesha State Bank locations and various governmental offices. As of now in Wauwatosa, you can ask for the wristbands at Leff's Lucky Town or Johnson's Sporting Goods.
In addition, Cops and Kids is looking for corporate sponsors to purchase large quantities of the bands at a discounted rate to be distributed by officers out of their squad cars, much the same way they hand out baseball cards.