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Park High School grad Overland dons police badge

Park High School graduate Tom Overland is the newest River Falls, Wis., patrol officer. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Phil Pfuehler)

The newest patrol officer in River Falls, Wis., welcomes the intense demands his line of work dishes out.

During training as a police reserve and during ride-alongs with other officers, 23-year-old Tom Overland says, “I couldn’t get enough of the high-adrenalin, high-stress situations…Sometimes I would have to remember to breathe to keep my composure.”

Overland, a Park High School graduate, recently completed field training and was hired full-time to join the River Falls Police Department March 4.

Police Chief Roger Leque said Overland fulfilled all expectations and earned the job.

“When Tom served as a Police Reserve, we clearly recognized his dependability and potential as a law enforcement officer,” Leque said. “He has demonstrated his commitment to the department and city, and we are confident he is a good fit for our community.”

Overland was born on an Air Force base in California. His dad was a combat controller and his mom a general’s secretary. He moved around before settling with his family in Cottage Grove, and graduating from Park High School in 2009.

Intent on majoring in marketing communications, Overland attended UW-River Falls. But his interest in the subject waned. Overland’s new educational goal is earning a bachelor’s in either sociology, psychology or criminal justice. He has an associate degree in criminal justice-law enforcement from Chippewa Valley Technical College in River Falls.

Overland likes to play and coach lacrosse. He was a goalie for the UWRF Falcons club team and now is assistant coach for the Park High School boys varsity lacrosse team.

That’s where law enforcement as a career came into focus. The lacrosse team’s head coach, Greg Rinzel, is also a Cottage Grove police captain.

Aside from coaching together, Overland said Rinzel talked about policing. Overland was hooked.

“All the stories he told didn’t make it seem like work to me,” Overland said.

That impression hasn’t changed since joining the RFPD.

“Everything you do is challenging,” Overland said. “You have to be smart, strong and quick on your feet.”

Overland said being a lacrosse goalie has the same fever-pitch moments as policing.

“I grew up playing the sport,” he said. “Being a goalie is a high-stress position.” Overland added that he enjoys “anything that gets my blood going.”

As for high school coaching, Overland said it translates into youthful mentoring opportunities about life.

“You can influence them, teaching them to do the right things,” he said, adding that coaching sports also means teaching not to take the game results “too seriously.”

“It not about winning the state championship, but to have them turn out to be decent adults,” Overland said. 

The rookie officer said the best aspects about police work are it’s never monotonous and the workload permits independence.

“It’s a bit of a rollercoaster with exciting points and then time to catch up and get your bearings,” he said. “I move around and make my own (work) schedule, whether it’s traffic enforcement, answering calls, doing investigations.

“I like to get out of my car every 30 minutes — make my presence known, meeting people, being proactive.”

Overland’s girlfriend, Brooke Marlow, from Cottage Grove, works in the field of autistic therapy. She’s attending the social work program at UW-River Falls.