Ten years ago in the summer of 2009, two School Resource Officers (SROs), Officer Mike Kirchen and Officer Mark Klukow, were looking for a way of staying connected to the children during the summer and to give children positive interactions with police officers. What they did was start the Bike Cops for Kids program. That first year they received a grant from the Ciresi Foundation, support from the PEACE Foundation and found an amazing partner in Penn Cycle. They also partnered with North Memorial Medical Center, the Pohlad Foundation and Bell sports equipment. They rode bikes around North Minneapolis that summer interacting with kids and handing out bike helmets.
In following years other sponsors and partners joined them including Dean Phillips and his family, Mike Ciresi, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, and Bern Helmet. The Bike Cops for Kids also has teamed up with the MPD Engagement Team and the Police Activities League (PAL) and now connects with children in other parts of Minneapolis as well as here on the Northside.
Some of the officers also are out connecting with kids in neighborhoods year-round, not just in the summer. This winter the Bike Cops and the MPD handed out thousands of pairs of gloves to youth in the community. A few years ago, they also added an awesome truck that can not only hold a lot of bike helmets, but has refrigeration so they can hand out ice cream treats and has an attached basketball hoop.
Over the past 10 years some officers, like Mark Klukow and Dave O’Connor, have become sergeants and taken other positions, but still join the Bike Cops on occasion, and new officers have joined. Two of our Camden neighbors, Jeff Hayes who is the MPD’s LGBTQ Community Engagement Team liaison and Officer Cheryl Goodman from PAL, work with the Bike Cops in connecting with youth. One constant during these 10 years has been Officer Mike Kirchen who is known by seemingly every kid in the community as “Officer Mike.” He loves connecting with kids and the community and also loves taking selfies with everyone.
Some things have changed over the past 10 years but their goal has never changed: “make a special memory stick into the hard drive of a child as they grow up in challenging situations. Connect cops and kids in an unusual setting, their own yard, and use helmets, bike safety and bikes to do it. Safety is the added bonus.”