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RACINE— The first Dunk A Cop Reading Challenge is underway until May 31 at Wadewitz Elementary School, 2700 Yout St.

Over 30 officers and cadets with the Racine Police Department will spend upcoming school days encouraging students to read while building essential community connections.

Connecting through Community Oriented Policing

Dunk a Cop Reading Challenge
Ofc. Brady was the driving force behind the Dunk A Cop Reading Challenge. After a game of football, he reminds students about shaking hands and being a good sport. – Credit: Emma Widmar

The leading force behind the Dunk A Cop Reading Challenge is Ofc. Travis Brady of the Anthony Lane COP House, 2437 Anthony Lane.

Ofc. Brady has recognized that an individual’s ability to read can go a long way, but not having the skills to read can negatively impact life beyond childhood.

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a fourth-grade level.

Dunk a Cop incentive

Alarmed by the statistic, the Racine Police Department is stepping up by going into classrooms to connect during National Police Week.

In an effort to connect, not only will officers be in classrooms throughout the next two weeks, but students are being empowered to read outside of school.

At Wadewitz Elementary, students have the ability to use online-based reading testing software to test their knowledge. According to Ofc. Brady, students have the ability to read a book and then take a test that will show their competency.

Students who meet a certain benchmark will be entered into a lottery for the chance to dunk a cop in a dunk tank on June 5 at their school.

100 students will be chosen via a lottery, but it is up to the students to qualify.

Cops in classrooms

The fun kicked off on May 15 in multiple classrooms with a diverse group from the Racine Police Department.

Investigator Diener opens up about her reading challenges

Investigator Melissa Diener started the morning by reading Star in the Jar to a kindergarten class. While volunteering, she spoke to the class about her job and helped answered questions students had about policing.

Many asked questions about her toolbelt. Diener reminded students that despite having handcuffs, a camera, and other accessories, the most important tool she has is her voice.

“I was not a very strong reader growing up and I hated reading in front of people,” explained the investigator to the class.

Dunk a Cop Reading Challenge
Investigator Melissa Diener shared with students about her reading struggles and the importance of reading. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Diener was motivated to read to the students because she believes in forming a positive connection and wants students to see her in a different light.

She commented that often times interactions come when someone is in crisis. Being in the classroom was different, in a good way.

“It was just nice to have a positive interaction with everybody in the community,” said Diener.

Wadewitz was joined by another female officer after Diener.

Ofc. Hood leads by example

Ofc. Gabrielle Hood read My Voice is a Trumpet as a way to empower students. She was off duty but made an appearance at the school nonetheless.

Dunk a Cop Reading Challenge
Ofc. Hood read a book called My Voice is a Trumpet to students at Wadewitz Elementary as a part of the Dunk A Cop Reading Challenge. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“I’ll do anything for the kids, any volunteer opportunity,” said Hood. “I’m there because I feel like a lot of people poured into me, so now it’s my turn to pour back into them.”

She feels it is important to be involved, too, as a woman of color and a female officer.

The classroom was engaged with Ofc. Hood by discussing how people have different voices and are used in a multitude of ways. Everyone has a different role. She had conversations with students about how they can make an impact too.

“Use your voices wisely and use your voices to make change,” Hood told the class.

Cadets in the classroom

Volunteering to read to students next were Cadets Greg Sanders and Gabe Brandies. The pair read two classic Dr. Seuss books: 1 2 3 and A B C to students.

The Cadet program through the Racine Police Department exposes those involved to surface-level policing. It engages members with the job and helps them to prepare for a career in law enforcement. Both cadets who were present at Wadewtiz and volunteering their time are taking the steps to join the Racine Police Department through the paid cadet program.

Dunk a Cop Reading Challenge
Cadets Sanders and Brandies connected with children by reading 1 2 3 by Dr. Seuss on May 15. – Credit: Emma Widmar
Dunk a Cop Reading Challenge
Cadets Brandies (left, front) and Sanders (left, back) plays a game of flag football with students at Wadetwitz in addition to reading to a classroom. – Credit: Emma Widmar

The Cadets believe that the foundation of a good career starts with a community connection.

“We love doing stuff like this. Once we are Officers, like Ofc. Brady, we will already have that connection,” explained Sanders. “It’s so important.”

In addition to reading to students, the cadets played a game of football with Wadewitz students as well.

The fun continues

More officers will be present at Wadewitz throughout the upcoming school days. Depending on how the challenge measures out, they will have the chance on June 5 to dunk a cop, all while getting to know those behind the badge.


The Racine County Eye, which includes the Kenosha Lens, is your source for local news that serves our diverse communities. For more K-12 and college education news, check out our Schools section. Subscribe today to stay up-to-date with local news.

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