School Resource Officer helps lead new Crookston Youth Foundation initiative.

First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?
    Well Mike I’m the youngest of 4 children born to Don and Florence Rasicot, (who are now both deceased). I have 2 sisters, (living in the Twin Cities) and one brother, (who is now deceased). I’m originally from Bloomington MN. I graduated from Bloomington Lincoln High School in 1978. I attended Normandale Community College in Bloomington and attained my Associates Degree in Law Enforcement in 1980. I later enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a Military Policeman and almost immediately was selected as a traveling S. E. R. T. team member  for all western military bases, (equivalent to a modern day SWAT team member). My Military contract was 6 years, (4 years active and 2 inactive). While in the Marine Corps, I attended different colleges but mainly National University in San Diego Ca. for a degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in business administration. After my enlistment was up and literally 2 credits short of my degree, I came back to Minnesota and was subsequently hired as a Police Officer for the Minneapolis Police Dept. While a Minneapolis Police Officer, my main duty was as a Patrol Officer and an FTO Officer. I served in many career enrichment positions that included, narcotics, vice, 5th Pct. crack team, homicide, and the research and development dept. I officially left the Minneapolis Police Dept. in 1996 and later accepted a civilian job with the Ford Motor Corporation at the Twin City Ford Assembly Plant in St. Paul MN. This career change included a significant raise in my income. I was treated very well at Ford and had a highly sought after position, but was not personally happy there. I really missed police work. At that time I attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally every year with my friends, one being the chief of police of Thief River Falls. When I told him how much I missed police work, he told me that his friend was the chief of the Crookston Police Department, Tim Motherway. He told me that Crookston was currently hiring 2 police Officers and I should apply if I was serious about getting back into police work. If I applied and was accepted for the position I would be taking an approximate $40,000 cut in pay from my Ford Job. Well after many hours of consideration, I always knew that my passion was never about the money so I applied for the Crookston Police Dept. I was hired in July of 2004 as a Crookston Police Officer and have never looked back a day in regret. I am married to Rose Rasicot. We have no children, but we do have wonderful dog named Blessie who is a GoldenDoodle breed.           

You have made quite a transformation since first being hired as a police officer for the Crookston Police Department. Well, maybe “transformation” isn’t the best word to use. But you’ve become not just a police officer, but almost an ambassador in the community for the Crookston Police Department, almost the face of the department on a level similar to Chief Paul Biermaier. Can you describe or explain what has led you from there to here?
    Well Mike just for you to make that observation is truly an honor for me if that’s the perception. And yes I will admit, and I’m sure my administrators would concur that when I first started here it was quite a transition for me on several levels. First of all I had never lived or worked in a small town before, nor had I ever experienced the small town commonalities like everyone knowing you and your living habits…lol. I’m not sure if Crookston had to grow into me or I had to grow into Crookston or both. Now I love it! As far as bringing my police experience, we did things very different in Minneapolis. Once here in Crookston I was counseled more than once about making traffic stops with my weapon out, not pointed at anyone just out. I’m an old fashioned guy with an old fashioned style of police work. I’m a very frank and direct person; I tell it like it is. I have always believed in enforcing the law somewhere in between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. That’s my shortened answer to your transformation question.
      Regarding your ambassador question, again what an honor and compliment. Early on in my career here at Crookston I felt the warmth, accepting, and giving of this community. I say this because in my long career, especially in Minneapolis, and to some extent here in Crookston, I have had quite a colorful career. I have made some mistakes and some questionable judgment calls, most Officers do. I have learned from each and every situation where those mistakes applied. The citizens have always supported me with the good and the bad. For this reason alone I believe I owe a great debt to the citizens of Crookston, my department, and the City of Crookston’s leaders. What more could a public servant and city employee ask for! The press has always been fair, objective, and kind to me as well. I am a guy that often has functioned, “out of the box” to solve problems and accomplish my missions. This has been a pretty successful strategy for me so far.  As I alluded to earlier, I truly believe that I am a public/community servant, having said that, I believe in giving back to my community. This means I will always happily donate my time, effort, labor, and strengths to take on any challenge or cause that is in the betterment of the community. I think it also makes a huge difference in a public servant’s service that he/she lives in the community that he/she serves. Finally, I believe that being a Police Officer is not a job but a life style. Now I will be the first to admit that I do not have children or an extended family, so I have more time to give to my community than most Officers with larger families. My wife Rose is also very supportive of this. I am so fortunate to work for a department that is more like going to a family everyday rather than going to a job.
    Almost the moment that City of Crookston leaders and Crookston School District leaders started talking about possibly bringing back the School Resource Officer to the district, a whole bunch of people told me “Don Rasicot would be perfect for that job,” or words to that effect. Why do you think so many people reached that conclusion so early on? Do you think you have special talents, skills or abilities when it comes to working with kids, and having them relate to you or respond to your efforts?
    Mike for the last few years I have been fortunate enough to establish and foster an awesome relationship with the Crookston School’s administration, teachers, and students at all levels. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to follow in former Crookston Police Sgt. Aaron Pry’s footsteps regarding the running of the Nite to Unite and Safety Town activities. These activities have put me in close, direct contact and interaction with our youth here in Crookston. I have a very special place in my heart for our youth. I have actually seen children grow up from our safety town classes on into High School. In the past years I have been able to visit classrooms frequent enough in all three of our public schools for the kids to know me by name and feel comfortable enough to be able to approach me. Regarding my law enforcement style with our youth, I try to be fair but firm with our challenged youths, they know me, they know what I stand for, and I have had a great amount of success with this approach. I believe this has been recognized by both the department and the schools, so for that reason I believe is why I had the honor and opportunity to be chosen for the SRO position. Regarding your question about me having any special talents or skills, I think I have the same amount of talent or skills as anyone of our Officers, but I think what has given me a slight advantage in dealing with our youth is my experience, passion, and drive to make a difference. Before I retire from my law enforcement career, I want to positively touch and make a positive difference in as many peoples’ lives as possible.
     It is really important to me that you and your readers know that I am a Christian, and any success or accomplishments that I may have contributed to, or been a part of, came directly from Jesus Christ who is my savior.  

Regarding the announcement you and other leaders of the effort made in February about the launch of the Crookston Youth Foundation, in the span of about a half-hour, I had one person tell me, “This could be huge for the kids and this whole community” and then another, more skeptical person tell me that it’s probably a lot of talk that won’t result in a lot of positive change. What do you realistically see the Crookston Youth Foundation and its so-called “youth center” or “center of operations” being able to accomplish in Crookston? What kind of impact will it have?
    Mike regarding your question about the announcement of the CYF, this will be a big deal and a truly positive resource for Crookston and surrounding area youths. We have spent a year in the planning and implementation of the foundation prior to going public. We have put in place the initial funding to get us off the ground in the building renovation, and the running for at least the 1st year, but so much more community involvement is needed. We have put to together a sustainability business plan for future years. Most of all, we have a very select group people involved with a wide variety of talents, management skills, and business savvy. And finally all of us have a huge heart for the youth in Crookston. As you know Mike, it is amazing how far heart, drive, and passion will carry you through to success. With all of this careful preparation and selection of people, we don’t believe and neither should our community believe that, “it’s probably a lot of talk that won’t result in a lot of positive change “ as quoted from one of your readers.
    Regarding the youth center, we anticipate it, (the building and build-out) to be designed for the preparation of our teenagers to enter the work force and the reality of adulthood. We envision mentoring programs, computer facilities, guest speakers, and social activities to bring out the talents and skills in a youth that would normally not be challenged or have access to such a fostering atmosphere. We will challenge them with the responsibility of maintaining and contributing to the center by utilizing their own skill sets either learned or naturally acquired. We will have a youth board to keep us in touch with the pulse and modern needs and demands of the youth of today. The impact it will have on Crookston in the short term is to show the youth that we care and are providing a safe place for them to flourish. The long term will be nothing short amazing if even one youth who would have been normally lost in this complicated world, would have found direction, skills, and a career he/she didn’t know was possible.

When you first heard that there were people who wanted to make the Crookston Youth Foundation a reality and that there was real money to back up the talk, what’s the first thing that went through your mind?
    Mike I’ll candidly answer that, yeah I have heard all this before with no results. Then I was asked to attend a meeting and determine for myself if this was a, “pie in the sky go no where project”. Once I attended a meeting and knew who was directing this vison and willing to be a part of it, I became less skeptic and more motivated to join this group. But I was still not completely sold on it. Then I met the financial donor, learned of the money he was willing to donate and risk to bring this to fruition, in addition to observing his passion for the children. I then agreed to be a part of this project. I have watched this project grow by leaps and bounds though the determination of all involved and their respective skill sets.   

Where do you think/hope the Crookston Youth Foundation will be in 10 years? What do you hope it will have accomplished by that point?
    Mike my hope and dream is that in 10 years the CYF is completely self-sustaining, self-sufficient, and successful. I would measure success by former CYF youth recipients who were impacted by it come back to it as a board member or financial supporter of it. I would love to see past CYF youths who are now policeman, business owners, community activist, public servants come back and speak to the current youth and tell them how they were directed to their success in some small way by the CYF years ago.  

Do you think Crookston kids have it better or have it any tougher than kids in communities that are similar to Crookston?
    I came from the inner city and have seen a whole different kind of youth. What do I mean by that? Well most of the youth that I came in contact with were gang members looking to be loved or accepted by anyone, meaning gangs or ill- suited groups. They came from homes where there never was a positive male role model. They came from very poor or low income housing and circumstances. So my answer to that question will be based on the above description of my experience. I believe that the Crookston youth of today have it better than the majority of Minnesota’s suburban youth for a couple of reasons. In Crookston or the surrounding communities, most come from 2 parent homes, wealthier parents and living conditions, low unemployment rates, small town morals and norms that tend to be a more caring and, “walk beside you” based upbringing. Now on the flip side, all youth of today have an incredibly complicated road to toll. There is so many pit falls out there for our youth, and it is very complicated to navigate around those pit falls without directions or skill sets preparing them for the challenges ahead.     

When you first accepted the SRO position and walked in for your first day on the job, were there some obvious things that you said to yourself you had to absolutely tackle before taking on any other challenges? What needs to improve or be done better at Crookston High School?
    Well that is a great question. The answer is yes I did. There were a few of challenges that directly related to an SRO, but more so several challenges that included an SRO, but not without staff support. A few examples are as follows:
    1st. thing I needed to tackle was the lack of respect for the teachers, administrators, and the student body by 5-10% of the students in the High School. The majority of the student body had no respect or authority issues. The 5% percent however was affecting the productivity, moral, and leaning capabilities of the students and staff. My first challenge was to make myself available in the hallways, classrooms, and office area. I then set out to educate the 5% of the students with respect and authority problems with the proper statutes governing their behavior. (disorderly conduct, trespassing, unlawful assembly, assaults ect…) The 5% would get counseled their first few times and warned of increasing consequences for their behavior. Most of those students got it after that. For those that did not get it, I then escalated to, “education through citation”. Most of the rest of the students then got it. For those very few students that still wanted to test the waters, they were removed and placed in the court system. Well for a job that I anticipated months to solve this respect problem, took only weeks. I also want to say that the parents of the students that needed more intense corrections were very supportive of me and I thank them for that. The school administration has been super supportive of this as well. It is those reasons that my plan and was so successful in matter of weeks and not months. The parents, school administrators, and I were all on the same page.
2nd thing was the roaming and skipping of classes by students during the school day. This again was a collaborative effort between the school administration, Social Services and I to enforce and have a clear set of consequences for tardies or unexcused absences. This again took weeks not months to bring to a successful level.
    Now these are just a few examples regarding your question. Are we perfect and have no incidents, tardies or unexcused absences, absolutely not, but we are a 150% improvement from January 2nd the day I started as an SRO.
    Our hallways are quiet and baron during class hours. There is no roaming allowed. Teachers are happier as are our students who have always flew by the rules at hand. I would also like to be clear, all of the above noted improvements aren’t necessarily because of me; it is more about the presence and deterrence of an SRO. The administrators and teachers now have the time and ability focus on their teaching and educational responsibilities as opposed to disciplinary issues and associated problems with the discipline.
    Mike if I could convey one message to your readers related to the SRO in the Crookston Schools. I want them to know and have the confidence that they can send their children to any of the Crookston Schools with the assurance that their child is being taught and cared for by some of the best teachers and administrators in the field today. The Crookston High School is now a peaceful and caring learning environment. The students and teachers will tell you that. I have an open and standing invitation to any parent or media person that would like to call me and make an appointment to walk the halls with me, see what I see and observe what I do. Of course there are some privacy limitations for any media person regarding names and photographic documentation.             
Pies…you are apparently an aficionado when it comes to making them or baking them, so much so that you’ve even taught classes. Where does that love and talent come from? I mean, everyone loves pie, but not many people love making pie…
    Well Mike great question. As far as baking pies, my mom was a phenomenal cook. But she cooked all her recipes from memory. She would made this incredible lemon meringue pie, but she would only allow me to have one piece. So at the age of 10 or 11 I decided I would make my own lemon Meringue pie and eat as much as I want. That started the pie thing I guess. As you can imagine there was a lot of experimentation before an edible lemon meringue was completed by me. Later on in life I was a bachelor for 18yrs, so I learned to cook for myself and enjoy it. Naturally, like my mom, most of my recipes are in my head. When I came to Crookston, one of my first friends was a fireman nick named, “Gus”. He liked to eat and cook as I did. We started making pies and caramel corn. Both the pies and caramel corn became so popular that we couldn’t keep up with the demand. We actually took a road trip with our wives to Duluth one summer just to visit the famous, “Betty’s Pies” and learn a thing or two from their cook. From there, Gus and I developed some of our recipes for pies, crusts, and toppings. Since then, our group of guys who make pies have grown from a fireman and policeman to a welder, phycologist, diesel mechanic, educator, and several other trades. It’s hilarious; 5-7 of us guys would get together at my house and build 9-10 pies for people and charities. About 4 years ago, I was asked if Gus and I would teach an adult continuing education class. We agreed and did it with our group of guys. From that point on, we have had to teach 2 nights of classes because they fill up so fast including a waiting list for any openings due to cancelations. It’s a lot of fun.    

    Do you possess any quirky or unique talents, skills or habits (besides baking pies, which a previous question specifically referenced) that people outside of your inner circle are most likely unaware of? Care to share any?
    Mike I’m sure that I have quirky habits; I must have because at times I drive my wife nuts. One of my weird habits is an open garbage can with any garbage in it. I will remove whatever is in the can so it remains empty, and then put the garbage in a closed trash can, crazy I know….I’m also that guy that likes to organize my kitchen cabinets and face all my canned goods outward so I can see exactly what I have on hand. I’m a fanatic about a clean car and will spend hours detailing out my cars, to include my squad car. All my clothes are hung in order with all white matching hangers….again, crazy I know.  

Describe where you think/hope you'll be in 10 years, or what you think/hope you'll be doing, personal life-wise and career-wise.
    Mike in 10 years I plan on being retired from police work, but not from the work force, or the public service sector. I would like to remain very active in serving my community in whatever capacity I can, and as long as my health holds out. I really want to snow bird in Arizona during the winter months and return to Crookston in the summer time because I am so not a winter person. My wife is not on board with that idea, so I guess I’ll be here year round…..

Please describe yourself in ten words or less…
    Passionate, driven, spiritual, super blessed, happy, content, open minded, unique, sensitive, and seasoned.