Behind the Badge

Photo by Greg Gancarz| Jason Metzelaars (left) of Mattoon and Alex Osterbuhr (right) of Bloomington are pictured while visiting Parkland. The two will officially become Parkland police officers after their training is completed this April.

Photo by Greg Gancarz| Jason Metzelaars (left) of Mattoon and Alex Osterbuhr (right) of Bloomington are pictured while visiting Parkland. The two will officially become Parkland police officers after their training is completed this April.

Greg Gancarz 

Editor

Thousands of students returned for the spring semester, however, last Tuesday also served as a welcome to two future Parkland police officers whom arrived on campus to get accustomed to the environment and get to know their soon-to-be coworkers.

Jason Metzelaars of Mattoon and Alex Osterbuhr of Bloomington arrived last week to become more familiar with Parkland’s campus before beginning their official police training at the University of Illinois on Jan. 21.

Although the two have signed on to become policemen on campus, they will not be on active duty until they complete training sometime in mid-April.

“We go to the academy and we graduate hopefully April 26,” Osterbuhr said. “[We’re] in Pre-Academy; just meeting everyone here, getting acclimated to the department and the people we’ll be working with.”

The positions that Metzelaars and Osterbuhr will be filling are not new roles, but rather are vacancies left open from departures within the last year.

“One was to fill a retirement from December. The other was a vacancy from the fall [of] 2017,”  said Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety William Colbrook. “The college has established a headcount of 15 sworn officers, which includes the Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety position. When an officer leaves the college, we have been very fortunate to have the college approve hiring to maintain our staffing levels. There has been no expansion of the police force.”

Colbrook says that the college plans on filling one last vacancy in the future as well.

“We plan on hiring one more in the very near future. The job opening is posted and we will be testing soon. Any interested person should call Public Safety at 351-2369, call Human Resources, or access the job opening announcement on-line,” Colbrook said.

Colbrook says applicants for the position have to fit specific criteria in order to be selected.

“Candidates must attend a mandatory orientation session, pass a physical fitness test, pass a written test, successfully complete an oral interview, and then be selected as a good fit for our campus environment,” Colbrook said.

For applicants like Metzelaars and Osterbuhr who have successfully completed selection, the next step is attending 14 weeks of training at the training institute of the University of Illinois.

Although both Metzelaars and Osterbuhr plan on commuting to training and then work each day, both remained in high spirits for what lay ahead.

“I’m super stoked about it,” Metzelaars said.

Osterbuhr said that he had been looking forward to police training since he was in junior high. 

Metzelaars worked as a firefighter for ten years before deciding to transition into police work and believes it will be a very smooth transition. He said it was a career that was always of interest to him, thanks in part to much of his immediate family serving in law enforcement.

Osterbuhr said he had similar motivations.

“My aunt was a state trooper and she’d tell us about her job and I always thought it sounded cool,” Osterbuhr said. “I’ve always enjoyed the educational aspect of it and I like the mix. I’ve always wanted to be a cop so I like the mix of being able to do that in a learning environment… being able to protect and serve.”

Metzelaars says he fell in love with Parkland’s campus when he tested here.

“Everybody is super nice here,” Metzelaars said.

Due to his work as an EMT, Metzelaars said he knows the area well.

“I’m very familiar with [Champaign]. With my job, we transfer a lot of people to Carle [Hospital], so I know Champaign pretty well,” Metzelaars said.

Osterbuhr said he has a bit more to learn, however.

“I’m not terribly familiar with [Champaign]. I’ve been at Parkland multiple times before. I did some walk-alongs with the department and learned my way around before I actually even got the job offer, but I do not come to Champaign often at all, so it will be a learning experience for me on that end,” Osterbuhr said.

Metzelaars mentioned that he would definitely be ready to point Osterbuhr towards the good local restaurants.

“Good food’s always important,” Metzelaars said.