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Connecting to the community

Community service officer Tim Bohmbach has worked with the Red Wing Police Department for 19 years. (Republican Eagle photo by Danielle Killey)1 / 3
Kids explore a Red Wing Police Department command vehicle during a past Night to Unite event. (Photo courtesy Red Wing Police Department)2 / 3
Red Wing Public Works attends Night to Unite events, along with firefighters, police officers and local officials. Here, some participants at a previous year’s event check out one of the department’s vehicles. (Photo courtesy Red Wing Police Department)3 / 3

When most people encounter police officers, the uniformed men and women likely are writing tickets, performing arrests or carrying out other duties.

But community service officer Tim Bohmbach’s role with the Red Wing Police Department is more focused on interacting with residents and working to keep issues from arising.

“It’s about getting a connection between the department and citizens,” Bohmbach said. “I’m kind of a liaison between the community and police department.”

He’s not the only one who does this, he’s quick to note — there is another community service officer in the Red Wing department, and the police officers also work with the public that way — but it’s a key piece of his job.

The community service officer is a civilian position, Bohmbach said, so he can’t make arrests or do all the other things licensed police officers can.

His duties lie in a variety of other areas, from crime prevention and animal control to safety training, rental housing matters and evidence. That means every day is different, which Bohmbach said is something that keeps him interested.

“It’s so diverse,” he said of the work. “I never know what I’ll be doing each day.”

Bohmbach said he was first hired to do parking enforcement when he started with the department 19 years ago, but the job slowly evolved into what it is now.

“I guess I kind of fell into it,” he said of the position. And the variety of experiences has made him stick around.

Bohmbach said he especially enjoys interacting with kids. He works on the bicycle rodeo, Halloween safety presentations at schools and other programs. Recently he gave a tour of the department to some children.

“Some of the questions they ask are so insightful,” he said. Kids will look up to you if you can answer their questions and spend time with them, Bohmbach said, and that’s a good feeling.

Bohmbach said he enjoys helping someone when they need it.

“A lot of times people call the police because they don’t know where else to go,” he said, and even if it’s not something police would typically handle, they can help the person.

That’s why Bohmbach encourages people to contact the police if they sense a problem.

“If they don’t know whether they should call the police, they should,” he said. “It’s better to find out it’s nothing than to have … something happen.”

That’s hard to get across to people, he said, because “they feel like they’re bothering us,” but it’s important.

Night to Unite

Bohmbach also works with neighborhood watch groups, which is how the annual Night to Unite event originated, he said.

East End residents wanted to start a neighborhood watch group in the late 1990s and held a kickoff event that became the first of the annual gatherings.

“Night to Unite just grew from there,” Bohmbach said.

While some cities host one big gathering, Red Wing has many sites, which Bohmbach said helps people get to know their neighbors.

That’s critical to resolving problems and keeping a watch out for each other and suspicious or out-of-place activities, he said.

“If they get to know each other more, they can bring up issues with each other,” he said.

It’s also a chance for residents, including kids, to see police officers in the community and out of the context of writing a traffic ticket, for example, Bohmbach said. They can raise questions or concerns with officers as well.

This year’s Night to Unite is Tuesday Aug. 5 throughout Red Wing. Police officers, Red Wing Fire Department and Public Works representatives and local officials have been invited.

Here’s a list of planned area gatherings, provided by the Red Wing Police Department:

•Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing, 8 a.m., picnic at 11 a.m.

•Maple Hills, 4 p.m.

•Jordan Towers, 4:30 p.m.

•Trailside Acres, 5 p.m., parade at 7 p.m.

•Snowbird Drive, 5 p.m.

•Burnside Apartments, 5 p.m.

•Downtown Plaza, 5 p.m.

•Pine Valley Park, 5 p.m.

•Eagle Ridge Apartments, 5 p.m.

•Pheasant Run Townhomes, 5 p.m.

•Pepin Woods, 5:30 p.m.

•Jefferson school, 5:30 p.m.

•Wright Street Park, 5:30 p.m.

•Hillcrest Court, 5:30 p.m.

•675 Hallstrom Drive, 5:30 p.m.

•Red Fox Drive, 5:30 p.m.

•Colvill Family Center, 6 p.m., parade at 8 p.m.

•Bryan Drive, 6 p.m.

•Ninth Street, between Central and East avenues, 6 p.m.

•3618 Martha Lane, 6 p.m.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

(651) 459-4629