Officers settling into roles with Mar-Mac PD

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Mason Kwilinski (left) and J.T. Cunningham are the new full-time officers with the Mar-Mac Unified Law Enforcement District. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

From car accidents and domestic disputes to OWIs and thefts, J.T. Cunningham and Mason Kwilinski have seen a little bit of everything during their first few months as full-time officers with the Mar-Mac Unified Law Enforcement District.

“I even got called to handle a gosling in someone’s driveway,” Cunningham shared.

“It’s been busy,” Kwilinski acknowledged, but the two have valued the learning opportunities.

Cunningham, a Guttenberg native, became interested in law enforcement at a young age.

“My dad has been on the fire department since I was 7 or 8,” he said, “so I grew up around cops.”

It was much the same for Kwilinski, who knew family friends in law enforcement while growing up in Montevideo, Minn. 

“I did a ride along and fell in love with it. I knew it was the career for me,” he said.

Both officers obtained degrees from the University of Dubuque, where they were also recruited to wrestle. The positive culture established by new chief Robert Millin, as well as the chance to work in smaller communities, attracted them to the positions with the Mar-Mac Police.

“I come from a smaller community,” said Kwilinski, “and I like that atmosphere, building relationships and making it an even better place to live.”

Being from Guttenberg, Cunningham was already somewhat familiar with Marquette and McGregor. He said patrolling and going to calls has helped him learn even more. 

For Kwilinski, getting behind the wheel both on and off duty has also allowed him to become more acquainted with the towns. He likes riding his motorcycle and has used the pastime to get to know the area, which he fell in love with while attending college in Dubuque.

So far, Cunningham said one of the highlights has been meeting the local kids. When school was still in session, he was able to eat lunch with students in McGregor, and he stopped during recess one day to play basketball.

“Now the kids know me by my first name,” he said.

The officers eat out at local restaurants, and when he stops at the gas station or other businesses, Kwilinski said he always tries to offer a friendly face and say “hello.”

“A lot of people come up to me too, since I’m not from the area,” he remarked.

If you happen to get pulled over, though, remember to stay in your vehicle when the officer approaches. Both officers, along with police chief Millin, said some people have had a bad habit of getting out, which can put law enforcement officials on edge.

Most of all, Cunningham and Kwilinski appreciate that the profession offers new challenges each day.

“I worked in a factory before this, and it got boring,” Cunningham shared. “With this, you’re able to make your own decisions.”

“Every day is different, and you deal with different people,” added Kwilinski. “You know you’re making a difference. That feels good.”

In August, Cunningham and Kwilinski will head to the academy to become certified officers. Afterward, said Millin, they’ll be able to conduct field sobriety tests on their own, and they’ll be equipped with enhanced defense tactics and interview techniques.

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