DOJ recognizes St. Cloud Police Department with national award

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The St. Cloud Police Department is earning national recognition for opening the door to a new way of community policing.

Within the walls of a St. Cloud home, neighbors can find access to all kinds of public services, including medical care, access to assistance programs and community programming. 

It’s a welcoming space for community engagement, but not long ago it was an address that used to be nothing but trouble.

“This house was a source of 99 calls for police service in a period of five years,” said Lt. Lori Ellering of the St. Cloud Police Department. “It was an eye sore.”

For a long time, the house at 600 13th Street South was a source of drugs, squatting, and general disturbance calls.

The home is now the St. Cloud Police Department’s Community Outpost - otherwise known as the “Cop House.” Funded by donations from local businesses the site houses a variety of services administered by representatives from the county, city and state.

“It tells [the neighborhood] that they’re supported,” said St. Cloud Police Assistant Chief Jeff Oxton. “Not only by their police department, but by the people and businesses who are in this city too.”

Two officers are always assigned to the house, but all are welcome to stop in anytime and use the amenities.

“I had a little girl asked me today, ‘Do police officers have kids too?’ and I can say, ‘Yeah we do,’ and they get to know us as people,” said Oxton.

Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice recognized the collaborative community effort. Top officials visited the Cop House to present the St. Cloud Police Department with the Justice L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award.

“It really legitimizes our program and it really gives us that recognition that says what we’re doing here is a good thing,” said Ellering.

Congressman Tom Emmer also congratulated the department on the House floor Thursday morning. Emmer was instrumental in helping the department secure the house for community use.

“Having this type of recognition gets people even more fired up about being part of the solution of safety,” said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis.

The Charlotte Police Department was also a recipient of the Civic Imagination Award.