Minneapolis bike cops have new way to reach out to kids

Unveiling a new vehicle
The Minneapolis Police Department's new van promotes its Bike Cops for Kids program. The vehicle carries bike helmets and water bottles that officers can be give to kids.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

The Minneapolis Police Department unveiled a new vehicle Wednesday at Lucy Laney Elementary School on the city's north side, which is designed to help officers better reach out to kids this summer. The Bike Cops for Kids van comes equipped with a basketball hoop, bike helmets that can be given away to kids, water bottles and a bicycle reserved for "one lucky kid."

Minneapolis police officer Mike Kirchen is a co-creator of the Bike Cops for Kids program, which began in 2009.

Kirchen started riding his bike around the city to visit with kids while he was a school resource officer at Lucy Laney Elementary School. Kirchen said the program not only promotes bike safety, but fosters better relations between officers and children. He said it's important to let kids know that cops are regular people.

"We're moms. We're dads. We have kids at home. And we come in and sometimes have to do a very tough job being a police officer," said Kirchen. "We care about the kids. We want to see them safe in the summer. I let the kids know all the time, the cops are great. The cops are friendly. Stop and talk to them."

Kirchen said the Minneapolis Police Department has given out thousands of helmets and several hundred bikes to children over the years. The $50,000 van was paid for by donations from Minneapolis attorney Mike Ciresi, and Dean and Tyler Phillips with the Phillips Family Foundation.

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