Corporate buyer becomes deputy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2002

Austin Daily Herald

In 1993, Robert Morris started working at the Olmsted County Sheriff's Department as a part-time reserve officer, with the idea that it would just be a community service project.

Little did he know that nearly nine years later, he'd join the Mower County Sheriff's Department as a full-time deputy.

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"It piqued my curiosity and I thought I would like to do it full time," he remembers.

Moving into a full-time position, however, would require Morris to stop working at his full-time job as a corporate buyer and go to school for formal law enforcement training. Deciding it would be unfair to his wife and two children to suddenly stop working full time and head off to school, he continued working and tucked money away until the time was right to pursue his dream.

In June 2000, the time was right and he began taking classes at the Rochester Community and Technical College. He graduated in May 2001, passed his skills test in June and then took his post-test in October. "Thank God I passed that puppy," he says, grinning.

He credits his wife for helping him attain his dream. "Without the support of a great spouse, this could not have happened. To change your life in midstream is a major event for everyone in your family, but I've had nothing but outstanding support from her," he says.

After applying for several jobs, he was offered and accepted the position with the Mower County Sheriff's Department.

His years of experience were a major part of his appeal to the department, Sheriff Barry Simonson says. "He wasn't a 22-year-old youngster. He was experienced and mature. He'd worked in the courts and had done civil work and all those things," Simonson explains.

During the next few weeks, Morris will shadow various officers who work different shifts and will have to be evaluated before he can be approved as a full-time officer. He's more excited than worried about his training period and beyond.

"I see my basic function is to be out there, enforcing the law, not necessarily cracking heads, but interacting with the public in a positive manner.

"Anybody that's ever had to file a report with an officer, whether it's a traffic stop or something else, goes away with a lasting impression, be it positive or negative. If the officer is short and unfriendly, the next time that person sees an officer they'll think 'Oh my God,' and assume that officer is the same way," he said.

However, he says, if an officer can conduct a traffic stop in a positive manner and get the driver to realize the officer is only concerned about the driver's safety and the safety of others, "it's going to leave a positive impression, and that's what I hope to do -- get out there and have a positive rapport with people and I hope to maintain a positive image of the department."

Simonson is pleased Morris accepted the position. "His experience, temperament and enthusiasm are going to be assets to the department. I sure hope he'll stay for the long-term because I think it will be a mutually beneficial relationship."

So does Morris. "I'm very happy to be with Mower County and I'm honored they selected me out of all the candidates. I plan on being a good representative of the department."