The UW Oshkosh Police Department is holding its third annual Run with the Cops event on Oct. 6 to raise $50,000 for the Special Olympics and strengthen its relationship with the community.
The 5k run costs $25 to enter, but runners can post a link to their registration page on social media, which allows people to donate money to the participant’s fee. If the participant has enough people donate to them, their fee is covered by the donations and the rest goes to the Special Olympics.
University Police Department Captain Chris Tarmann said the idea was brought to him five years ago and the goal was to create a fun event students would like while building relationships between the community and local law enforcement.
“The inception of the event was, how do we make a really fun event that stands out differently as a run,” Tarmann said. “It’s not just a 5k where you wake up at seven o’clock in the morning and go and run three miles. The goal is to raise money for Special Olympics Wisconsin.”
Tarmann said the inspiration for him putting this run together is seeing the smiles on the faces of the people who are part of Special Olympics.
“You have that raw care and passion for police officers,” Tarmann said. “It’s the true nature of someone with special needs who looks at law enforcement, they really have a respect for that career.”
UWO student Joseph Sobralski, who is participating in the run, said he likes the cops on campus because they have improved his experience in Greek Life.
“They help make our campus safe,” Sobralski said. “With [the] pie in the face [event], they helped make sure everything was [running smoothly].”
Oshkosh Student Association President Austyn Boothe said her and her Vice President Maria Berge knew campus safety was important when they were running for office.
“We have been working to establish a positive working relationship with the university police and recognized that an event like this really allows for the campus community to get to know [the] university police in a fun and informal way,” Boothe said.
Tarmann said this event reminds police officers that citizens see and mirror their conduct in the community.
“It helps show cops they need to make good choices and that people look up to them,” Tarmann said. “So I’m really excited to be able to enhance that through this event.”
According to Tarmann this event allows cops to behave differently around people in the community rather than always being seen as a cop.
“You’re in your law enforcement capacity, but you’re acting differently,” Tarmann said. “People see the raw side of you, they see the human side of you, and I think people forget that.”
Officer Chance Duenkel of UWOPD, who plans on running in full uniform and gear, said the event unifies the entire Oshkosh community as whole.
“[The event shows] law enforcement, the on-campus community and the off-campus community together working towards one goal and that’s to give as much as we can to Special Olympics,” Duenkel said.
Boothe said the event is important to both faculty and students alike because with the media coverage on police related issues increasing, tensions can also increase.
“Run With the Cops allows for everyone to come together and get to know each other on a personal level, take hilarious pictures with friends, participate in a donut eating contest and volunteer,” Boothe said.
Duenkel said the event will present police officers in a different light to the community.
“It’s nice to be able to have a good time with the members of the community, to show that we are people too, we like to have a good time,” Duenkel said. “It’s a lot more enjoyable than writing tickets.”
Sobralski said the event shows cops in a fun environment.
“Instead of just being the law enforcers, they can go out and have fun with the college students,” Sobralski said.
Tarmann said he remembers growing up and looking at police officers thinking they were a different type of person.
“Really they’re human beings, they’re very much like yourself and myself,” Tarmann said. “We’re just people. We go to work and put on a uniform and protect people. For me that helps solidify the fact that that cops can have fun, they can do it, but they can still protect you. It’s a neat synergy.”
Duenkel said it’s important to earn as much money for Special Olympics as possible so they can have more experiences like Run With the Cops and bring joy to their lives.
“Just seeing the impact it has on the Olympian’s lives and the joy that they get out of participating in these events, it really brings home why it’s such an important event,” Duenkel said.