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Great Brain Project leads eight-year-old to investigate local law enforcement

| February 28, 2024 2:00 AM

Costin Banning invited cops to his eighth birthday last April. 

Fans of TV shows S.W.A.T. and 911, it was exciting for the whole Banning family when Columbia Falls Police Sergeant Brandon Rice and Border Patrol Agent J.R. Hagreen showed up to the party. Rice even brought Costin a warrant with his present. The charge? Getting too old. 

So when the Great Brain project began for Ruder Elementary schoolers, Costin decided he would investigate local law enforcement. His mother, Cassi Banning, started setting it up.

“Every agency was excited and helpful, despite the fact that they were so short-staffed, they really kept trying to reschedule and take the time, they don’t have a lot of time,” she said. The Bannings ended  up talking to eight different officers across agencies, from the Park Service to Kalispell Police Department’s S.W.A.T. This trip, with Sergeant Dennis Bain, proved to be Costin’s favorite. They spent an hour touring the facility. 

“They were very good about getting him in and showing him around. I think they were pretty excited for it, too. Probably because they don’t get a lot of good publicity,” father Byron Banning said. 

Costin said what he learned most from his project was, “to protect.” He also got to see more of each office’s gear and understand their career paths more, a cool experience for a kid who wants to be a cop. 

The Great Brain projects, where Ruder Elementary students present research on a topic of their choosing, will be presented Thursday, Feb. 29 with public viewing from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Judges will score Costin’s project and others, with prizes awarded to top contenders.