When Brody Erickson applied for a New London police officer vacancy, he had no idea the job would lead to undercover work.
Erickson, 21, said the topic of undercover work was never brought up during the hiring process.
“The Chief (Schlueter) and I went out for lunch and that was the day he gave me the final offer, and that was also the day he brought the opportunity to be undercover at the high school,” Erickson said.
He added that he was surprised about the undercover opportunity.
“Going through school and hearing you’ll be on patrol right away when you get a job, that’s what I was expecting, that I’d be on patrol,” Erickson said. “Doing undercover work as a new officer was pretty surprising. I probably wouldn’t have got that anywhere else.”
Given a day to think about going undercover in the high school, Erickson said he wrote down the pros and the cons. By his calculation the pros outweighed the cons.
The next day Erickson told Schlueter he was willing to go undercover.
Erickson said his first day undercover at New London High School was nerve-racking, as he didn’t think he looked young enough to pass for a high school student.
“I was a little nervous, trying to act like a high school kid again, and not being a ‘cop,'” he said.
He said overall the students at the high school were nice to him, and on his first day, one student asked him to sit with him.
In addition to being on the lookout for drugs in the school, Erickson said he did all the work in class a student would do.
“All the classes were fun,” Erickson said. “I never tried welding before. That was the first time I touched a welder, so that was exciting. Actually, I did some pretty good welds.”
After his undercover assignment concluded, Erickson said the high school is a great school.
“They do a good job up there,” he said.
Students were informed at a school assembly that Erickson was an undercover police officer. He was at the assembly wearing his officer’s uniform.
“They were pretty surprised I think,” he said. “Overall, it was positive feedback from them. I didn’t think we were going to get any questions but we actually did and they were very interested in what we did.”
He said the students gave him an ovation when he was introduced at the assembly.
Now that Erickson is patrolling in New London, he thinks his undercover stint will help with his rapport with the youth in the city.
“Not only was I trying to target the drugs in school but at the same time I talked to those kids for almost a month and a half. [We had] good conversations and it kind of built that relationship,” he said. “For them to know I’m a cop now, I think that relationship built up is a good thing.”
“It gave us an opportunity to give the students somebody their age they could relate to,” Schlueter said.
He added that it shows students that Erickson is a police officer, but he’s also a regular person, as well as a resource to utilize.
“Brody did a great job. It takes a certain type of person to be able to do this and to be able to do undercover work,” Schlueter said.
Schlueter said this was the first time the New London Police Department has done an undercover operation like this.
“I don’t know of a whole lot of departments that have,” Schlueter said. “We thought we’d take a chance with him. We had enough confidence in him, even though he is brand new and never worked on the road for us, we oversaw what he was doing and we worked with him on a daily basis.”
Erickson said a challenging aspect of being undercover was doing his job as a police officer at the same time as trying to act like a high school student.
“Sometimes its two different personalities you have to switch to. It was challenging and it was exciting,” he said.
Originally from Marshfield, Erickson attended Fox Valley Technical School after high school.
He learned about the vacancies with the New London Police Department from his firearms instructor, Jay Zempel, who recently retired from the department.
“We talked a lot about New London, their mission, and what they look at within a city,” Erickson said.
He also likes the small-town feel New London has.
“The population is small but as a whole and what they achieve as a city is big,” Erickson said. “It gives me an opportunity as a police officer to actually know the names in the community.”