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From pizza delivery boy to police officer: Colin Meinders returns to Worthington streets in new role

WPD Officer Colin Meinders

WORTHINGTON — Colin Meinders has returned to the streets of Worthington in a new capacity.

A former Pizza Hut delivery driver in Worthington, Meinders has traded his cap and pizza boxes for a badge and duty belt as Worthington Police Department’s newest patrol officer.

“I think this is the greatest department since sliced bread,” Meinders said of his initial impression of the WPD since beginning field training April 10. “I just think it’s awesome. Just the relationship that everybody has, the way things are operated from the chief, down to patrol, to reception — to everybody. It’s next to none.”

The Brewster native returns to the area after gaining two and a half years experience as a patrol officer for the Waseca Police Department, his first law enforcement job after graduating from Minnesota West Community and Technical College in 2015. The patrol officer and three and a half years of pizza delivery experiences were huge advantages, he said, as he is already proficient in Worthington geography.

Meinders admitted working for the WPD was not on his radar following graduation.

“I wanted to move away from home,” he said.

After moving, he missed out on family functions and his friends, which drove his decision to apply for one of the department’s two openings. Meinders brings the force to 23 members. The department is authorized for 24.

Worthington Police Capt. Kevin Flynn said Meinders stood out in their hiring process, not only because of his prior police experience, but his experience with Worthington.

“He’s been a police reserve for us,” Flynn said of the volunteer role Meinders has filled for basic crowd control and security during high-traffic events and functions.

Meinders will soon finish field training and be on full-time afternoon patrol. With the addition of Meinders, the afternoon force of four is stacked with Round Lake-Brewster graduates.

A 2013 RLB graduate, Meinders will join Worthington afternoon patrol officers Tyler Olson and Jake Walker — who both grew up near Round Lake — and Lucky Sayveo, who grew up in Brewster.

Meinders said the four all played high school basketball together, which is translating well in their professional roles dedicated to providing safety to Worthington residents.

“That familiarity with each other is helpful,” Meinders said.

Mutually beneficial collaboration

Not only are many of the police department’s 23 members local men, but several are also Minnesota West graduates. In addition to Meinders, officers Walker, Olson, Sayveo, Mark Riley, Sgt. Dustin Roemeling and Investigator Brandon Piel also graduated from the area’s law enforcement program.

Flynn said the police department’s locally raised members and the relationship with Minnesota West is helpful to the department, especially from a retention perspective.

“Guys that want to be here are not looking for new jobs,” he said. “It makes a difference, I think.” The Nobles County Sheriff’s Office has also employed several Minnesota West graduates.

According to Nobles County Chief Deputy Chris Dybevick, there are currently two deputies and three correctional officers employed by the office that attended Minnesota West’s law enforcement program.

Minnesota West Law Enforcement Program Coordinator Mike Cumiskey said the college and area law enforcement collaborate in a variety of mutually beneficial ways. That includes the department’s volunteer reserve program, internships and work studies, which not only allow Minnesota West students to gain exposure, but give the department an opportunity to scope out the future talent.

“We try and send students that we think would be a good fit,” Cumiskey said.

Although Cumiskey said it’s difficult to track where law enforcement graduates are finding employment and attribute a percentage, he said the majority of students are drawn from about an hour radius of the Worthington campus and typically seek employment within that same range.

While the college’s law enforcement program began in 2003, the department’s ongoing presence in Worthington schools is really beginning to bear fruit for the college’s program.

“What the department does in the schools helps us get applicants,” Cumiskey said.

Learning WPD culture

Regardless of previous experience or an officer’s familiarity with the area, every new WPD hire must complete a 10- to 12-week field training program.

The program, said Worthington Sgt. Tim Gaul, who directs the field training program, is a four-phase, 400-hour “welcome wagon.”

“When (new officers) come to us, they have all the skills and degree,” Gaul said. “We take the basic level and tweak it to the culture of Worthington PD.”

Gaul said a person could not become a Worthington cop without completing the all-encompassing field training program. While most law enforcement agencies have the same purpose, the structure and how they choose to handle their daily operations may differ.

The ultimate purpose of the program, Flynn said, is ensuring new hires understand the expectations of the department and the city.

Meinders said the program is more difficult than he initially thought.

“It’s the same job, but the faces and names are different,” he said. “The new computer system was by far the biggest challenge for me after switching departments.”

Although Meinders will be on afternoon patrol duty, his field training is exposing him to each shift with a variety of different officers, as well as dispatch and records.  

“I like being with a little bit of everyone,” he said. “Everyone has their own skill-set and different type of knowledge that they give to you.”

Gaul said Meinders will likely complete the program in the 10-week frame, as he’s demonstrating that he’s ahead of the curve in regard to Worthington geography and equipment.

“He’s been an officer, so he knows how to talk to people,” Gaul added.

Gaul commended the pool of officers who have gone the extra step to become a field training officer. FTOs include Olson, Walker, Riley, Jake Refsland, Gabe Vander Veen and Chris Hillesheim.

“It’s an unbelievable amount of work and stress to be a field training officer,” Gaul said. “I have the most respect for those guys. The people of Worthington can be glad that that team is in place.”

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