During National Police Week, we recognize the men and women who risk their lives every day to enforce the rule of law and keep our communities safe. Ideally, every interaction with law enforcement is a peaceful one. But in tense situations, a foundation of understanding between police and the individuals they protect can help de-escalate the interaction and keep everyone safe. In short: law enforcement is only as effective as their community relations are strong.

Communities throughout the Sixth District are shining examples for their efforts to ensure the community has positive and regular contact with the local police departments. One community in particular has built a strong relationship between law enforcement and the community is St. Cloud.

Built in 2017, the St. Cloud COP House began as a partnership between the St. Cloud Police Department, Mayo Ambulance, CentraCare Health, and Stearns County Social ServicesThe house serves as a gathering place for residents of St. Cloud to participate in community classes and public health services. Residents have the option of attending job training workshops or breastfeeding clinics. Events are held nearly every day, with up to hundreds of community members in attendance.

The COP House does more than simply offer services: it builds a bridge between law enforcement and the community they protect. Community members also get to know members of the police force on a personal level, establishing rapport, trust, and helping to build a stronger, more connected, and empowered community.

Earlier this year, I was proud to re-introduce my Community OutPost Outreach and Engagement Act. This bill will allow communities across the country to expand on the success of the St. Cloud COP House. Specifically, this legislation will create a nationwide grant program to fund COP Houses affiliated with police departments in every state.

I am hopeful that this legislation will give communities the tools they need to help strengthen relationships with law enforcement. The men and women in law enforcement became cops because they want to help their communities, and communities want law enforcement they can trust. A neighborhood COP House can make that goal a reality.