Running onto the field from the front doors of the Boys and Girls Club at 4:45 p.m. Sept. 26 were dozens of incredibly energetic and eager kids ready to practice their soccer skills. Waiting for them at the adjacent Haws Park were St. Cloud State University Criminal Justice Studies students.
Matthew and Allan signed kids in at the registration table, Sam handed out water bottles and wrote each name on them, and Emma found the perfectly sized (and color-coded) scrimmage vest for each bundle of energy. Off to the side Zach, Cosette, and Nick were planning and setting up the activity at each station.
The lesson of the day: Community policing and effective citizenship.
Lieutenant Lori Ellering ’95 ‘06 of the St. Cloud Police Department is the instructor of CJS 421 P.O.S.T. Administration, a required course for students wishing to become licensed peace officers in Minnesota. In this course, students take an in-depth look at the principles of law enforcement, stress/crisis intervention, crime prevention, community relations, court testimony, communications, and cultural awareness.
“I think effective citizenship and effective policing go hand in hand,” Ellering said. “In order to serve your community you need to be a citizen of that community.”
While she does not mean this in the literal sense in that an officer needs to live where they work, but she does believe they need to experience life in that city. Ellering wants future peace officers to have those experiences so they can related to those they serve.
Future peace officer Zachary Bares recognizes the value in the camp as it relates to building trust in the community. “It is good to interact with the community when times are good and build meaningful relationships with those in the community,” he said. “When times become rough you know that those in the community will fully support and trust you.”
Governed by current Minnesota Professional Peace Officer Education (PPOE) learning objectives. St. Cloud State is one of 30 colleges and universities in the state certified to teach PPOE learning objectives.
The PPOE program is designed to produce candidates for peace officer licensure by offering the basic knowledge, skills, and abilities for the vocation.
Section 5: Philosophy of Effective Citizenship and Community Service and Section 6: Recognizing and Valuing Diversity and Cultural Differences were the objectives tied to the soccer camp activity. Ellering’s overall goal with the camp was for students to experience community policing first hand and not just from a book.
“I wanted them to have the opportunity to work with kids, in their campus neighborhood, who maybe don’t look like them. I wanted them to work within a diverse community and hopefully break down any preconceived ideas or stereotypes they may have,” she said.
The St. Cloud Police Department believes building relationships in the community is essential to reducing crime and creating a safer place to live, work, and visit. The St. Cloud Rotary Community Outpost (COP House) plays a vital role in that work assessing and providing residents with access to basic needs and building relationships.
Opened in 2017, the St. Cloud PD conducts regular events to engage the local community including COP House Hockey, Southside Hoops, and the COP House Soccer Camp. The first soccer camp was orchestrated in 2020 by then COP House intern and Criminal Justice Studies major Sally Nelson ’21. Nelson was a member of the SCSU women’s soccer team.
Bares, an alumnus of SCSU’s men’s soccer team took on a leadership role at the Sept. 26 soccer camp. With a great comfort in demonstrating soccer skills and playing with the youth, Bares recognized his role in stepping up and setting a good example to his peers.
“I think it’s good when a leader leads by example and is standing side by side with their peers,” Bares said.
With the help of his classmates, the soccer camp was a success. Bares quips, “If I can handle a group of 7–12 year-olds, then I can handle hectic situations where multiple different things are going on at once.”