It’s all she wants to do

Published 5:13 pm Saturday, May 29, 2010

Maya Erickson is going to be a cop. It’s the only thing the Winona State University junior wants to do.

The daughter of retired Austin Police Sgt. Jim Erickson, Erickson is currently majoring in law enforcement and corrections as well as taking part in the Winona explorers program, WSU security and as an MP through her National Guard unit, 257 P-Company stationed in Monticello, Minn.

“This is all I wanted to do,” Erickson said.

Erickson was heavily influenced by her dad, Sgt. Erickson retired in December after 26 years as a police officer and Erickson can still remember spending time with him when he was on the force.

“I can’t tell you how much of an influence he was,” Erickson said speaking for her and both her brothers, Matt and Mitch Williamson. “Riding with him made me realize me I wanted to intern here.”

The internship Erickson is speaking of is the 12-credit course she’s taking right now with the Austin Police Department. Austin generally takes one or two interns each summer as part of its own program started in 2000.

The goal is to take the intern on ride-alongs, take them to calls and generally show them what it is like to be a police officer.

“We show her a variety of calls,” Officer Chad Norman said. “She sees a lot of bad things as well as good. Just going to college doesn’t teach you that.”

On the surface, Erickson’s internship isn’t really any different than any other intern’s, but there is an added pressure. Ideally, Erickson would have all summer to finish her internship, but because of her guard unit’s annual two week training she needs to have her internship done by July 31.

That’s a lot of hours in a relatively short time. Erickson is usually with Norman or officer Kim Deutsch, but not limited to them.

“Everybody’s eager to take her for a few hours,” Norman said.

That has made things a lot easier. Despite the short time to get all her hours in, it still allows her get the experience she needs.

“It’s been good,” Erickson said. “I’ve seen quite a few things so far.”

There have been challenges. Erickson loves to work with kids and be out in the public, so it is natural that calls involving children would be difficult.

“Going into this I knew (situations) with kids would be the hardest thing for me to deal with,” she said.

Norman and the rest of Austin’s police force try to give Erickson as many experiences as possible, involving her in some of the day to day things cops do, but there are those times when Erickson’s observations are done from a distance.

“Anything we think might lead to deadly force, we keep them in the squad car,” Norman said. “We want them to be safe.”

That’s just fine with Erickson. Erickson would like to experience those situations, but she’s realistic about it as well.

“I want them to worry more about what they are doing than the intern standing behind them,” Erickson said.

Erickson’s enthusiasm for what she wants to do is easily recognized. Not only does that help her in her studies, but it helps the officers as well. It’s easy to spot those that will go on to work in law enforcement and those who won’t.

“First impressions are worth a lot,” Norman said. “It makes it a lot easier. (Erickson) catches on fast.”

Knowing what she wants to has been the easy part. Knowing where she wants to do it may require a little more work, but Erickson has a pretty good idea and it took a suggestion from an officer from California she met at a Warrior Leadership course in Utah with the National Guard.

The destination: San Diego, Calif.

“It’s just an idea right now,” Erickson confessed with a grin.