Days after a 14-year-old boy was shot while walking to the store to buy snacks last December, he got an unexpected visitor to his hospital room: Minneapolis police officer Mike Kirchen.
But Kirchen, who helped found the popular Bike Cops for Kids program in 2008, wasn’t there to hear about the shooting, but rather to deliver a little cheer on an otherwise bleak occasion.
“I brought him a bunch of Quarter Pounders with Cheese, and Big Macs and fries,” said the 27-year veteran of the force, recalling the way the boy’s face lit up. But, because the boy was still healing, Kirchen said the two of them instead walked around the hospital, handing out burgers to the staff.
Their bond has only deepened in the months since, he said.
It is that ongoing commitment to community policing that won Kirchen the 2019 Officer of the Year Award from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, its organizers said. Kirchen was presented with the honor at the group’s annual awards ceremony last weekend.
He becomes the second Minneapolis cop in three years to receive the award.
“I don’t take this award lightly. It’s a great honor to get this because there’s over 10,000 officers across the state of Minnesota,” Kirchen said Wednesday. “It’s super cool, because it’s a big honor, and it shows me that community engagement is really important, and more people are looking at it and try[ing] to adopt it into their departments.”
The idea for Bike Cops came about a decade ago as a way for Kirchen and then-officer Mark Klukow to keep in touch with kids from school who found trouble during the summer months. Since then, officers with the program have handed out hundreds of helmets, water bottles, bikes and ice cream to kids around the city.
“If you looked up community engagement in a police textbook, you’d see a picture of Michael Kirchen,” said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the police association.
Minneapolis Police Chief of Staff Art Knight said he wished “we had 100 more [like Kirchen] in the department.”
At a time when relations between law enforcement and certain communities are still raw, Kirchen’s work feels as vital as ever, he said.
“You can’t just arrest ourselves out of these problems, because that’s just a revolving door,” Knight said. “We always say we want to build better police-community relationships — and that’s what he does.”
Also recognized were:
• St. Paul officer Adrian Saffold, a 27-year law enforcement veteran who also received the department’s Officer of the Year award, for his “dedication to his community.”
• Virginia, Minn., officer Nick Grivna, for his quick thinking in helping save the life of a man who had been taken hostage last November by a knife-wielding suspect.