Menomonee Falls - Officers with the Menomonee Falls Police Department have gone fishing.
For one day last week, local officers shed their uniforms to take children with disabilities fishing at Menomonee Park during a Cops and Bobbers event coordinated by the Cops and Kids Foundation.
Cops and Bobbers was created to give the community a chance to see police officers in an environment without their badge and uniform.
"It gives the community a chance to see we are normal people," said Jay Weber, an investigator in the Special Investigations Bureau at MFPD before he embarked on a day of fishing last week. "It's a perfect opportunity for us to gain a rapport with them. We want them to feel comfortable with us and let them know they have a friend in law enforcement if they need it."
Cops and Kids is a nonprofit organization that provides grants to police departments to run community policing programs including fishing, archery and bowling events with no cost to the department or taxpayers. The program is meant to help officers and the communities connect on a positive level.
Cops and Kids Foundation stemmed from a program started in 2001 by Bob Kraemer, who was an officer at the Pewaukee Police Department at the time.
"There's that mistrust and people just generally don't like the police because thy usually interact with them in negative situations," said Bob Kraemer's son Rob Kraemer, who is also vice president of the foundation's board of directors. "He found a negative stigma against the police so he wanted to change that and he thought the best way to do that would be to reach out to the youth of the community."
Bob Kraemer then created fishing, archery and bowling programs in Pewaukee where officers work with local youth. Once he retired in 2009, he began the foundation that funds the programs for other police departments through private donations and corporate sponsors.
Camp makes a connection
Though most of the Cops and Bobbers events are typically for any child the community's respective department serves, the MFPD took children with disabilities fishing.
The children were members of Camp Pow Wow, an event run by the Association for the Rights of Citizens with handicaps. ARCh is a nonprofit organization that promotes the health, safety and achievement of children and adults with disabilities throughout Waukesha County.
"We're actually the only camp in the area that doesn't turn anyone away based on their disability, so we have a really wide variety of campers and it's a great time," ARCh Camp Pow Wow director Scott Hestekin said.
"They wanted to do an event with us and we had been in talks with the Falls PD to start doing our program anyway, so this was a great way to do that," Rob Kraemer said.
More than a dozen MFPD officers enthusiastically answered the call to take 25 children fishing.
"It's more so for them to establish a bond with us out of uniform and to see that we're real people, too," Weber said. "We're also trying to get kids to get off the couches and put the electronics down and get out and experience the great resources outdoor Wisconsin provides."
Though it's the first year the officers are participating in Cops and Bobbers, they plan to work with the Cops and Kids Foundation to also set up an archery and bowling event for community youth.
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