ROCHESTER, Minn. — The Rochester Police Department made its proudest and youngest hire Tuesday when it welcomed 8-year-old Coltin Kenning to the force.
With a pizza lunch at Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria, a swearing-in by the city clerk and a proclamation from Mayor Kim Norton, the Kimball resident on Aug. 5 became an honorary member of the RPD.
"There are a couple of requirements that we look for when hire police officers," Police Chief Jim Franklin said. "One of those four things that we look for is people of courage."
"Courage doesn't mean that you are not afraid, it means that you continue to do the things that you might not want to do in the face of adversity," he said. "Coltin, I think you exemplify that core value for a police officer. That is why today, I'd like to offer you a job."
Coltin and his mom, Stephanie Kenning, were in Rochester for a medical appointment at Mayo Clinic Hospital. Coltin had no idea what was scheduled for him Tuesday afternoon but with the help of his mom, he was dressed for the occasion in his own police uniform.
Just like a full-time officer gets pinned at their swearing in by a family member or loved one, so too was Coltin, as Kenning replaced his fake badge with the one given to him by Franklin.
"You wear this one proudly," Franklin said. "Do you know why we wear it on the left side? We wear our badges on the left side because we police with our hearts, and you've got a strong heart."
Coltin spends about 75% of his year in Rochester for various appointments due to a number of health issues, Kenning said. Over the course of his lifetime, he has had almost countless operations, including 17 brain surgeries.
During his time at the hospital, Coltin has met some of the Rochester officers and enjoyed it when they would visit, so Kenning made what she thought was a simple request.
"I made a simple request a couple of weeks ago for them to just spend like an hour with him, play some games with him and make him happy and put a smile on his face," she said. "This turned into way more than I could ever have imagined. For that, I am forever beyond grateful."
Fighting back tears during the ceremony honoring Coltin and speaking about what it meant to her, Kenning said after a rough five months she knew a visit from the Rochester Police Department would bring a smile to her son's face. It was also a dream come true for Coltin, she said.
"He is not able to do a lot of the normal stuff that other kids can — most sports and a lot of other activities. He is kind of restricted in that way," she said. "This was, to me, just kind of an opportunity to put a smile on his face and let him be able to enjoy life for once, because it's not something he gets to do very often."