JASON SCHIELKE is the Genoa City Police Department’s first intern. Submitted. (click for larger version)
June 11, 2013 | 02:45 PMGENOA CITY — Traffic calls and the occasional possum sighting.
Those are the kind of police situations Jason Schielke said he has encountered while riding along with police officers in Genoa City.
The 22-year-old University of Wisconsin-Platteville student is the village police department's first intern.
He said he hopes to graduate in August with a degree in criminal justice, then find a job as a police officer in Southeastern Wisconsin.
"I'm already enjoying being an intern here," he said. "There are nice people, it's a great community. Driving around, people see you, they wave to you."
For Schielke, becoming a police officer may be a natural fit.
"Growing up, with my friends, I was always the one who watched out for them," he said. "I guess I was the safe one of the group."
To obtain that degree and follow his cop dreams, Schielke has to complete the eight-week internship program with the department.
Genoa City Police Chief Joe Balog said the program is part of his plan to improve the department.
He said he worked at two law enforcement agencies where criminal justice and social work students interned.
Being an intern in a police department offers students the chance to gain real world experience, Balog said, as well as observe investigations, learn about report writing and other investigative and tactical skills.
Schielke said about 50 percent of his 40-hour-a-week internship so far has been ride-alongs with Balog and the other officers.
He said none of the calls he went on stood out as being strange or dangerous.
Mostly, he would be inside the squad, running a motorist's license plate number on the laptop.
"There have been a couple times when I have gotten out of the squad and listened to what the person would say (to the police officer), just so I can see how they would deal with the person they have stopped," Schielke said.
"They all seemed pretty calm," Schielke said.
Then there's the other aspects of the job people may not readily associate with being a cop.
Balog said Schielke will help reorganize department manuals, conduct inventory of department equipment "so we can see exactly what is still needed or usable" and what they can trade or sell.
Which sounds like a far cry from the standoffs, high-speed chases and other situations the term "ride-along" may conjure up.
But when asked why he wants to be a police officer, Schielke didn't come off as a thrill seeker.
"I like helping people," he said. "Like, maybe it's helping someone find their dog. If I lost my dog, I'd want someone to help me. You won't always get a thank-you for it, but at least you're there."
To Schielke, being a cop means interacting with the public, not just writing tickets or driving around.
"It's a small town, so a lot of the officers will see people out, they'll wave, say hi, maybe have a short conversation with them, ask them how their day is going," Schielke said.
Schielke said in Platteville, there is an emphasis on community policing, which means officers are out in public more, interacting with people in the community, "doing things not perceived as police actions, like going down to the local school and playing basketball with the kids."
He started his Genoa City internship May 20.
It's an eight-week program, one which Schielke is doing while working part-time at the Brown's Lake Water Patrol.
In fact, his employment there may have helped open the door for him in Genoa City.
One of his co-workers is Jeff Sperandeo, a Genoa City police officer.
He said they talked about him needing an internship after he wasn't able to obtain one in Burlington — Schielke's hometown.
Schielke said Sperandeo told him he'd talk to Balog, and he thanked Balog for allowing him the internship opportunity.
It seems like Balog is pleased with the program so far.
"Eventually, we will forward requests to several educational institutions and assist the staff with placing interns with our department," he said.
As for Schielke, Balog offered more than just his opinion of the new intern.
"I see an eager young man ready to start his career," Balog said. "Looking back on my education, I wish I would have had the opportunity to participate in an internship when I was in college. I think it gives a valuable insight into the career you are pursuing."
Born and raised in Burlington, Jason Schielke, 22, said he expects to graduate with a degree in criminal justice in August from UW-Platteville.
He became Genoa City Police Department's first intern May 20. It's an eight-week program, and he works 40 hours a week Monday through Friday.
Schielke also works part-time as a marine assistant for the Brown's Lake Water Patrol.
Despite living his whole life about 30 minutes away from Genoa City, he said this is the first time he's ever been to the village.
"I had a friend in high school who was from Genoa City, but I hadn't really been here before," Schielke said.
So far, he said his favorite bit of advice about being a police officer was somewhat unexpected.
Schielke said he was on a ride-along with a Genoa City police officer during the Click It or Ticket mobilization — an effort in which officers focus on finding seat belt violations intended to promote safety restraint use.
He said the officer enjoyed participating in the mobilization "because he was making people safe."
But the key factor there, Schielke said, was enjoyment.
"(The officer) told me to enjoy what I do," Schielke said. "I wasn't expecting to hear that because you just kind of assume it, that when you're doing a job, you're enjoying it, but it's kind of different hearing that kind of advice."
What Schielke's most excited about during his internship could be the busiest time of year for the department.
"I'm looking forward to Country Thunder," he said. "I haven't really worked at a concert like that. It will be a different experience."
Schielke said what he's enjoying most so far is not just seeing what he has learned in the classroom put into practice.
"Everything's just new," he said. "It's exciting."