As part of the Owatonna Citizen's Police Academy, I was given the opportunity to participate in a ride-along with one of the officers, in order to see what it is really like to be in the squad, and not restrained in the back seat.

I was assigned to ride with Officer Val Satre on Saturday the 22nd. I was told I was allowed a 4-hour slot, so I was at the PD at noon. I met with Officer Satre, signed the waiver, and off we went. There was a call that she had to respond to, a theft call, and she talked to the reporting party. No guns blazing, no lights and sirens, no speeding throughout town, only a conversation. Of course, with a civilian in the car, they couldn't bring me with to anything that "exciting" (for lack of a better word).

Officer Satre was great, she was very thorough in explaining what was going on as we were cruising around town. I thought, with the weather being decent for December, and that we would be out during the last Saturday before Christmas, there might be more going on. Nope, it was a pretty uneventful afternoon. She explained that a lot of people partake in ride-alongs, potential recruits for the OPD, business owners, students who are part of the mentoring program in the school district, and interested citizens, like those who took the Citizen's Police Academy Class.

There are a lot of cool gadgets in the squads, the dash-cam, which when activated will record the sound coming from the mic the officers wear, so I got to hear everything when Officer Satre pulled someone over, without getting out. The laptop computer they have the buttons for the lights and sirens and was it ever tempting to start pushing buttons. I was good and touched nothing. They also have a cell phone in order to answer calls that dispatch pushes through, there was a such a call when I was along.

Officer Satre remained very much the professional throughout the afternoon. I saw and heard her interactions with people she had pulled over, she let them know right away what for, and she left each encounter with a wish for a good day. There were a few people who waved, and one little kid looked like he was trying to take flight he was waving so hard. That part was great.

I learned that being a police officer is, of course, nothing like they portray it on TV or in the movies. It would make for a very uninteresting show, especially in a smaller town like Owatonna. There are many times when the officers are out patrolling, keeping themselves busy, while remaining ever ready for any type of call. So, it was a slow afternoon, but, still very informative. They don't just sit around and eat donuts while drinking coffee. Next time you see one out patrolling, remember they are doing their jobs to keep you safe and maybe wave at them. Trust me, they will appreciate it.

Many thanks to Officer Satre for explaining things to me, and listening to all of my questions and comments.

My chauffeur for the day, Officer Val Satre. Melissa Hall/Townsquare Media