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Community Policing paying dividends

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The City of La Crosse has two new community police officers on the job in the area, but their role follows a somewhat different structure.

Officer Nate Poke and Officer Dan Ulrich set up their office in a former residential home in central La Crosse. And their number one mission - besides fighting crime-is establishing relationship with the people that live there.

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Officer Ulrich just called ahead for a meeting that he and Officer Poke have set up to talk about safety issues. It's just another "not so typical" day for the two officers whose now main focus is building relationships. They have their share of crime, but focusing on people and businesses in the Washburn area are their main concern.

Another major area of impact is the Boys and Girls Club.

"A lot of times when they see us it might not be for something good," said Officer Poke.

But the Executive Director says changing that impression didn't take long at all. Mike Desmond says a program like is making a huge difference in the attitude of kids that hang out at the club."When kids develop relationships with people, adults like myself, or our staff here, the police officers, the risk factors that they're exposed to on a daily basis go down dramatically. We just see that paying off huge dividendsIn the future."

Jeremiah says now he knows what he wants to be when he grows up-a police officer. He said he might even ride with Officer Poke. "It's pretty cool and pretty nice of them to come hang out with us. He'll be pretty old-51-for being a cop. I'll be 21."

As for Cierra Scott, the sky's the limit now. "They're showing us what do we want to be in life and how they followed their dreams and how we can follow ours."

"Everybody needs that positive role model and that's exactly why myself and Dan wanted to be police officers-to help out and give back," said Officer Poke. "And that's exactly what we are doing. That plus more."

One of the Community Officer positions is paid for privately, a funding model that's new to Wisconsin, but an idea that many cities in the states might grab hold of to form relationships with the community.

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