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Why this police department created its own trading card set

There are 20 different officers who have their face on a card.

A Minnesota police department is hoping trading cards will help deepen ties with officers and local residents.

Twenty officers with the Albert Lea Police Department are now carrying trading cards that show their picture and details about them, Lt. Jeff Strom told GoMN. 

The hope is these trading cards will help connect officers with the community – especially kids – and improve the process of policing in the city, Strom said. 

All people have to do to get a card is strike up a conversation with one of the officers and ask for one. 

"This is a way to have a little more positive contact with the citizens and they get to see who the officers are, [and] get to talk to them,” Strom told ABC 6.

Albert Lea PD tried this several years ago too, but it was on a limited basis – only five officers had cards due to funding, Strom told GoMN. 

But this time around any of the city's 38 licensed officers or reserve officers who wanted cards could get them, Strom said, noting a partnership with Freeborn County-Partners in Prevention helped keep the cost down.

The Minnesota Crime Prevention Association has a similar program. It gives out thousands of Minnesota Twins trading cards, which include crime prevention tips, to people at Twins games. Police departments also can get cards to hand out to kids in the community.

How the public views police

Despite high-profile officer-involved shootings, the public's confidence in police has stayed pretty steady over the years.

It's only moved up or down a few percentage points every year, as this graph by Gallup (see below) from last year shows.

Gallup said the public's confidence in police hit a 22-year low in 2015, with only 52 percent of Americans having a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in police. However, numbers rebounded in 2016, with 56 percent saying they're confident in law enforcement. 

But the public's opinion of police differs depending on who you talk to. The Pew Research Center's 2016 survey shows there's a confidence gap in police performance when it comes to race.

The CATO Institute, a Libertarian think tank, did a study and found a similar approval gap when it comes to race. The 2016 study says 68 percent of white Americans had a favorable view of law enforcement, while 40 percent of black Americans did. 

The institute says those numbers are about the same as in the 1970s, when it was a 67-43 split.

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