Police officers are more than patrolling authority; they can and do let loose too. Officers from the Dickinson Police Department will be lacing up and sharpening their skates for the return of its Skate with a Cop family-fun event.

The Dickinson Police Department will host its 2nd Annual Skate with a Cop from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, which will take place on the Charbonneau Area at the West River Ice Center.

DPD Officer Chad Hopponen created this event last year, right before the coronavirus pandemic hit, as a way to boost community involvement during the winter season. Skate with a Cop also gives young children an opportunity to see law enforcement officers outside of a patrol vehicle and interact with them in a “joyful setting,” Hopponen said.

“Being from Minnesota, I always grew up playing hockey and skating. There’s a couple other guys that are (also) from Minnesota (who) are skaters as well… Why not get some kids involved with skating with cops?” Hopponen said. “Even though we don’t have a lot of guys that know how to skate, we were still willing to put that event on and continue it.”

Last year’s first-ever Skate with a Cop attracted between 350-400 people from young children to 15-year-olds, Hopponen said, adding that families and children applauded the DPD for hosting this unique event that most hadn’t seen before.

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“I think it’s super important to show the community (and) to have that community involvement to where you can interact with police officers, because we are all human beings too. When you can get kids, even parents or whoever to come and participate in it, they can see it’s more of a community gathering than cops going on calls or just driving around in patrol cars. So it’s really important to have the community interact with us,” Hopponen noted. “I think what’s also lucky about this event too is not everybody is a good skater, and it shows us… that we’re human too and we might fall down a little bit on the ice as well as these kids. It gives them a perspective that we’re not just cops in a uniform. We’re out there trying to have fun and maybe touch a kid’s heart, or show these kids we can go out there too and have fun.”

Though some people may be leery of the event due to the current health situation the nation is in, Hopponen encourages families and their children to come out. The West River Ice Center will be limiting the ice rink to 175 people at a time, Hopponen said, noting that everyone will have an opportunity to skate.

“I’m super excited. It’s been a tough year all around for everybody in our community with the (COVID-19) stuff. I’m looking forward to just (well) for one, I grew up on ice so I'm excited anytime I can put on a pair of skates. But I’m also just excited for the community to come out and maybe take two hours of their time and forget about what’s going on in this kind of difficult world we’ve got going on and just enjoy themselves,” Hopponen said.

Hopponen wanted to thank the West River Ice Center for allowing the DPD to host this event for the second year, and also give a shout out to all of the sponsors. The Dickinson Police Association will donate all free skate rentals, for those who don’t have skates. Pizza Ranch and Kahm Construction have partnered up to deliver pizzas, Coca-Cola Co. will be providing drinks and Badlands Big Sticks will also be at the event, with its frozen yogurt. Hopponen said there will be plenty of treats and drinks for all of those who attend.

“It’s another event to show our community involvement and our interaction with the public. It’s that community policing that we strive to have as well where we’re not always seen behind a squad car, in the office or on-call. We’re actually out in the public interacting with them — that’s very important,” Hopponen said. “Especially during the times that we’re in… Young kids in the media see what’s going on in this world and I think it gives them an opportunity to interact with us and to see that it’s not a bad world to be involved with the police.”

Skate with a Cop not only brings the community together, but it allows for families to try something new this winter season, Hopponen added.