Growing up in the small town of Finlayson in eastern Minnesota, Preston Oetterer feels right at home in Osakis.
The new full-time police officer says he needed roots and that Osakis, even with its population that is more than five times that of Finlayson, is the perfect fit.
Oetterer, 21, was first hired as a part-time officer last July. But in March, he shifted to full-time after Mark Grinstead took on a full-time police officer position in Sauk Centre.
Graduating from high school in 2018, he says he saved a “ton of money” by earning college credit while in high school and he was able to graduate from college in 2019. He received his associate's degree in law enforcement from the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet.
Before being hired in Osakis, his first law enforcement job was as a Todd County sheriff’s deputy. He still has connections in Todd County as he works part-time there, but as a Long Prairie police officer.
After a ride-along when he was in high school, Oetterer said he knew a career in law enforcement is what he wanted to do. His dad works in corrections as a lieutenant so he has a connection to law enforcement through him, too.
Another reason he was drawn to law enforcement, he said, is because it’s a “jack of all trades” kind of job. Police officers, he said, get to be teachers, mediators, writers and investigators, among many other things.
“That’s why I like enforcement,” he said. “Plus, you get to be involved in the community. I’m very personable and like to talk about things with people.”
He wants to hold people accountable for their actions and will pull people over when necessary, but wants to be and likes to be personable about it.
“I enjoy being there and helping when people are at their worst,” he said. “I want to be that somebody they can trust.”
And he wants to be that person for students, too. Oetterer has also taken on the role of the School Resource Officer for the Osakis School District. Being only 21-years-old, he feels he can relate to the students and understand them better and wants to be a mentor for them.
“It’s been good and can only get better from here,” he said, adding that he will eventually be teaching the D.A.R.E classes on drugs and alcohol once he attends the two-week training to become a D.A.R.E officer. D.A.R.E, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is an education program that teaches students the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence.
"I enjoy being there and helping when people are at their worst. I want to be that somebody they can trust.”
— Officer Preston Oetterer
Osakis Superintendent Randy Bergquist said Oetterer is doing well in the school and becoming acclimated to his new role as the school resource officer.
“He is communicating with students at their level and making his presence known by being visible at lunch and in the hallways,” said Bergquist. “As a new police officer, I believe he will be looked at as someone students can feel comfortable approaching.”
Oetterer has plans to become involved in the community, which includes becoming a volunteer firefighter with the Osakis Fire Department.
“I don’t just want to be a figure of law enforcement,” he said. “I want to be a member of the community. I want to become involved.”