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New police officer settling in

Farmington's newest police officer is no stranger to the job, or to the area for that matter. In fact, Peter Zajac is feeling pretty comfortable in his new surroundings, even though he's only been on the Farmington Police Department for a little more than a week.

Zajac was hired to fill the patrol position that will be open when officer Andrew Van Dorn moves into his new role as a school liaison officer.

He comes to Farmington from the Faribault police department, where he worked for 3 1/2 years. Zajac earned his law enforcement associates degree from Alexandria Technical College in 2005. He lives in Lakeville with his wife.

On Tuesday, he and his field-training officer, Cassie Johnson, stopped by the Independent office so we could get to know Zajac a little better.

Why did you decide to become a police officer?

I don't know. Everybody asks you that, and I can't pinpoint a direct reason. I enjoy dealing with people. I'm not going to lie and say that the excitement doesn't amuse me. I'm being honest. I enjoy the variety, I guess, as the biggest thing. You don't just sit behind a desk. You're never going to have one day that's exactly the same as the other. You have a lot of different things to do on a day-to-day basis and it's one of those fields where you learn something new every day. I think those are the biggest things.

You have a few years of experience already. Is the job everything you thought it would be?

I love it. I enjoy it. Yeah, I'm pretty lucky that I'm one of those people who get up every single day and do what you enjoy. Not saying there aren't bad days, and days when you get frustrated and things like that, but I'd have to say the good days definitely outweigh the bad days.

How long have you been in field training in Farmington?

This is only my fifth day. I've been there, employed there, for like a week and a half, but I've only been on for five days of actual work.

Do you know how long you'll continue on that?

Should be off of training in March sometime.

What do you think of Farmington so far?

I love the community, I love the department. I got a chance to meet some of the officers before I got hired here through some different social stuff, softball teams and stuff like that. You know, I had heard about Farmington for a long time, as far as how the department is run and how their people are. That's one of the biggest reasons I applied here. They have a very, very core group. They get along. It's more of a family set than anything, which is hard to find in a lot of agencies in the metro area.

You were sworn in Monday night. How was that for you?

Very short, sweet and quick. I'm not a big one for public stuff, so that's just fine. No, it went well. I had my family come down, and my wife came, and it was nice.

Do you have any specialized training? If so, what is it?

In Faribault, I was a bike cop. I know they don't really do that here. I'm an operator of the Intoxilizer. When someone's arrested for DWI, that test that the state recognizes for alcohol content. I'm an operator of that machine. It's not really something that's specialized - a lot of cops do that. But other than that, I don't have any specialized training. I do enjoy DWI enforcement.

Then you'll fit right in around here.

Yeah, that's the thing about Faribault. It was like, you make a few stops, you're going to run into a few drunk drivers.

So is there an area you'd like to focus in on in the future?

Definitely. I'd like to get into the D.R.E. program. It's a drug recognition expert. I've done the DWI thing. People have to understand that not only do people drink and drive but they also take prescription narcotics and all that stuff and drive. It's a program that helps you detect that. Basically it makes you an expert on how to detect it, and to be able to tell if it's an upper or a downer or stuff like that. I would like to get into that. I'd like to get into a lot of different things over the years.

For your field training so far, what have you been doing?

The first day was just kind of riding along and learning the city. I kind of had a handle on the main streets and stuff like that, now it's basically getting to know the smaller cities and side streets. The nice thing about Faribault to Farmington is that we use the exact same computer system for our dispatch and stuff, so writing tickets, putting in calls, it's all handled the same way. It's all generated the same way. But basically, I've been taking calls and making traffic stops. It's been a very smooth transition. So far.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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