New perspectivesFor most of the juvenile residents at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing, their last encounters with a police officer probably weren’t all that great.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
For most of the juvenile residents at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing, their last encounters with a police officer probably weren’t all that great.
But there weren’t any handcuffs in sight Tuesday morning as about 120 residents got the chance to visit with law enforcement officers. It was part of Red Wing’s Night to Unite, where neighborhood residents gather and meet with police in an attempt get to know each other and deter crime.
While most of the community events happened Tuesday night, the correctional facility’s gathering preceded an afternoon barbeque.
“The nice part is our guys have had very few positive experiences with a uniformed police officer,” MCF-RW Volunteer Coordinator Elise Goebel said.
Red Wing Fire and Police departments brought a squad car, a fire truck and an ambulance inside the facility’s fence Tuesday. As many as seven paramedics and officers then took the time to explain the equipment to the residents and answer their questions.
“They’re pretty high-tech,” said 18-year-old resident Abaas, whose last name has been withheld. “I’ve seen fire trucks before, but never up close.”
While Abaas and his fellow residents enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the law enforcement vehicles, Red Wing Police Chief Tim Sletten said the event is more about positive interactions.
“Usually that’s part of it, seeing that we’re actually human,” Sletten said.
For Abaas, the event helped dispel some stereotypes he had about police officers.
“If you don’t talk to them, you just assume things,” he said. “It’s better to talk to them to see everything that you assume is not the same.”
Firefighter Adam Rohde said those assumptions go both ways. This was the first year Rohde has participated in MCF-RW’s Night to Unite, and he said before he came he had thought of the residents just as criminals. But he said he was impressed with their “intelligent questions” and how they seem like typical teens.
After the residents got tours of the three vehicles, a few of the officers stuck around to enjoy the barbeque with them. Then some of the residents performed a play they had rehearsed in the facility’s Learning Enrichment Achievement Program and others learning to play guitar performed.
“It’s a good opportunity for the kids here,” Abaas said of the whole event. “They don’t get many chances like these.”