School, police come together for kids
By Anna Erickson
Park Rapids Area School District and the Park Rapids Police Department collaborate for a police liaison program that benefits everyone involved.
Park Rapids police officers Mike Mercil and Dan Garner share the police liaison duties at the school.
“We have one officer here each day and overlap on Wednesdays,” Garner said. “We check on the different pods at Century and just talk to kids, say ‘hi’ and make sure we’re available if we’re needed.”
They have a passion for kids and care about what is going on in the community. In their position as a liaison with the school they become the face of their department and a role model for students.
This year the officers have tried some new things to get to know students.
“We did some reading to second graders and went to rec night,” Mercil said.
Students at Century, in particular, are responsive to the officers and want to get a “high five” or ask them a question.
“The little interactions are really fun for the kids,” Garner said.
The high school students are more hesitant to approach the officers but it is probably the age, Garner said.
They recently brought officer Adam Suckow to the schools to show him what is involved. He had a chance to see what goes on at the schools and also touch bases with the principals.
Besides checking in with students and teachers, officers deal with tobacco violations and sometimes drugs.
“The teachers are really good about keeping us in the loop early on,” Garner said.
If a student is having troubles with their family officers are alerted as well.
“The staff seems to appreciate it,” Mercil said. “They do a really good job with alerting us.”
Another issue the officers are called to help with is bullying.
“We might sit in with teachers and help reinforce what good behavior is,” Mercil added.
Century School assistant principal Shawn Andress sees benefits to having the officers at the school.
“I love the connection they have with the kids and being present at events,” she said. “It really helps with that school/home connection.”