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‘Win-win’ proposal approved by city council

Officers of the New Richmond Police Department will be giving back to the community. (Raymond T. Rivard photo)

New Richmond Police DepartmentGift cards to be presented to city residents

If you see New Richmond Police Department officers standing and stopping customers entering area businesses in the near future, don’t worry, it’s a good thing.

And that’s what will be happening in the coming days — all because of the concern and gratitude from members of the community.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” is how New Richmond Police Chief Craig Yehlik described the recent outpouring of support from city residents.

In addressing the issue with the city council, Yehlik wanted to inform aldermen of the situation and to get the body’s blessing to move ahead with a plan.

It seems the department has been inundated with a large number of gift cards from the public — 53 in all that total $265 in value.

But because the department isn’t allowed to accept donations in the form of cash or gift cards, Yehlik and his staff have been considering alternatives that would not only be in line with the chief’s efforts to strengthen community relations, but provide valuable information on how the agency operates in the future.

“We’ve had just a tremendous amount of outpouring of thanks from the community with everything going on [in the nation] and we’ve had people come in and drop off a number of gift cards for officers … gifts we cannot accept … If I have a chance to talk with those who drop them off I tell them we can’t accept them, but the people will say, ‘then use them how you see fit.’”

In consultation with staff, Yehlik said, “I put it to the staff to come up with ways to utilize those, while being transparent with a tracking system to see where they go, and what they find out … they came up with a ‘pay it forward,’ and we thought we could take these gift cards out and see what people want out of the city of New Richmond Police Department.”

Yehlik’s plan goes like this: “We could perhaps stand in front of Family Fresh, McDonald’s or Elements Cafe [and any of the other businesses where the gift cards were purchased] and talk with their patrons [to] gain a better understanding of what the citizens of New Richmond are looking for from the police department and then give them a $5 gift card for that business.”

The department has been given multiple gift cards to area business: Family Fresh (18), Culver’s (4), Dairy Queen (3), Caribou (2), Elements Cafe (2), McDonald’s (4), SuperAmerica (3) and Kwik Trip (17).

The council members loved the idea but asked that an accounting of what residents raise about police department activities be brought back to the council in the form of a report from the chief.

“I think this is a win-win in that we are out making positive contacts with the public and we are also gleaning information on what the public is looking for from our officers and our police department as a whole,” Yehlik said.

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