On his first day of first grade several years ago, Jessie Montgomery walked into Lucy Craft Laney Community School and saw a police officer. It was "Officer Mike," the guy he would get to know over the next few years as the blue-shirted adult who kept the peace in the hallways, handed out bike helmets, and took B and A honor roll kids to the Champions Club at Target Field for Twins games.
"He smiled and it made me feel good," said fourth-grader Montgomery, 10, on Thursday.
Six years after he took the assignment at Lucy Laney school, Minneapolis police officer Mike Kirchen is moving on, leaving behind a school that knew him as the wise-cracking, good-natured cop. A former bodyguard to past Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, Kirchen will take up patrols in the Cedar-Riverside area after his last day at Lucy Laney on Friday. He plans to patrol on bicycle this summer, an extension of his long-standing interest in bike patrols that had hime co-found "Bike Cops for Kids" with another Minneapolis officer several years ago. The group hands out free bike helmets and bicycles to city kids every year.
At Lucy Laney, Kirchen said the school's changed since his start there; back then he and a teacher routinely broke up fights between the 7th and 8th grade classes. "It was rough," said Kirchen, "but it got better."
Walking the halls on Thursday, Kirchen took selfies with students, fist bumped them in greetings and shared jokes.
"Why are you leaving me?" asked one boy as Kirchen walked past.
"My wife wants me to start biking more often and get in shape," Kirchen said. The 22-year-veteran of the force said he actually asked for the transfer. He'll work with kids in Cedar-Riverside as well, but will also answer 911 calls.
"He's a cool guy," said sixth grader Amir Calvin, 11, who took a break from school to attend a short celebration Thursday morning for Kirchen in the school cafeteria. "He helped me get through my anger issues. He was caring and I loved him and I'm sad that he has to leave now."
Photo: Minneapolis police officer Mike Kirchen with students at Lucy Craft Laney Community School on Thursday, June 5, 2014.