Old River Falls landmarks are a breeze for newest copIf someone says, “It’s over by the old Ben Franklin…or…”next to the old Tom Thumb,” Paul Jensen doesn’t need to ask, “What? Where’s that?”
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
If someone says, “It’s over by the old Ben Franklin…or…”next to the old Tom Thumb,” Paul Jensen doesn’t need to ask, “What? Where’s that?”
Born and raised in River Falls, he’s familiar with the old landmarks and reference points.
And now the 27-year-old Jensen, a war veteran, has joined the River Falls Police Department. He replaces Bruce Whitaker who left after almost 13 years.
Jensen, who started with the River Falls Police Reserves two years ago, has been filling in as a full-time temporary for another officer away on maternity leave.
Police Chief Roger Leque said Jensen’s solid work led to his appointment June 7 as the newest member of the police department.
Jensen served for six years in the National Guard. For over 11 months, from 2004-05, his infantry division was stationed in Samarra on the east bank of the Tigris River north of Bagdad.
Jensen said he won’t forget the extreme heat and humidity of Iraqi summers, nor the surprisingly cold winter nights.
“But at least what we were doing was beneficial and productive,” he said, adding that his division was exposed to sporadic combat.
He was involved with “clearing buildings” (looking for enemy combatants and weapons), plus training Iraqi police officers and national guardsmen.
“A lot of it was having them mimic what we were doing,” he said. “There were few interpreters, so there was a language barrier while we trained them.”
After serving in Iraq, Jensen returned to enroll at UW-Eau Claire.
In just 3 1/2 years -- by taking summer and three-week winter break classes -- he earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice.
“I wanted to get done,” he said. “I started as a 21-year-old freshman in the dorms. I was a little older than the others and felt out of place.”
While he had no mentors in the field, Jensen long wanted to be a cop because it seemed like a “decent career.”
“It was an easy transition going from the military into police work,” he said. “Both are structured. You get to work outside, be with a group of people, and make decisions together that result in some sort of conclusion.”
Jensen said there’ve been few surprises to policing.
“I might have come into it with the idea that there would be more hard-core criminals, but that’s hardly true,” he said. “You are usually dealing with normal people, with normal problems, who need help.”
For more on this story, please see the June 13 print edition of the River Falls Journal.