Park Rapids native patrolling downtown by bike
As Taylor Ondracek heads back to her sophomore year in college, she takes a wealth of summer experience with her that was unlike many summer internships.
As a bicycle officer for the Park Rapids Police Department, she was an extra set of eyes downtown this summer and immediately recognized the perennial youth problem of boredom.
Kids hanging out on the fourth or fifth block of Main can find trouble if they have nothing else to do, said the native daughter.
"I learned a lot," she said of her role as part-time bike cop, part-time ride along.
Park Rapids could really use a community center, she suggested.
"I would have loved that when I was here," she said.
Since she's not a licensed peace officer, she can't make arrests, but she can and did call for backup when necessary. She carries a police radio.
She can sign tickets written up by fellow officers and could give testimony in court if needed.
Last Thursday she was on the sidelines for a doozy of an arrest, what you could call a typical takedown: a less than truthful suspect with a criminal record, purloined items found at the scene, drama, tears and the eventual arrest. It ran the gamut of police encounters.
"She got in on a good one there," Chief Terry Eilers said. "She's enjoying it and it's a little extra eyes out there for us down on Main street."
He's already told Ondracek if she wants to return to the force, she's more then welcome.
"It's helped a lot and she's learning a lot. She can certainly shape her career" working in Park Rapids.
Besides, Eilers says he likes the idea of community policing, face-to-face encounters with residents in busy sections of town.
She will get college credits for the ride-alongs, so she is well set as she returns for her sophomore year.