As a child, Andrew Wolken thought of police officers as superheroes.
His dream was to work in the Cole County Sheriff's Department and protect people, adorning a tan uniform and badge instead of spandex and a cape. At age 27, his aspiration has become a reality with a little more than a year in as a patrol deputy in Cole County.
"For some reason, I've always wanted to work here," Wolken said. "I guess because this is the county that I've seen the most of, it seemed like it would be fun and get to do something different every day while helping people out, kind of like a superhero, almost."
Wolken has a lot of long-standing ties in the area, which Capt. Aaron Bollinger said helps the young deputy build a personal network and keep in touch with the area communities.
The deputy attended Eugene Elementary School, before moving to High Point in the sixth grade. He graduated from Eldon High School and went to work in Gasconade County law enforcement, but always knew he wanted to work in Cole County, where he transitioned to more than a year ago.
Since then, Wolken has become the deputy with the most time spent keeping the people of Russellville safe since the sheriff's department increased its presence in the community last year after residents began voicing increased concerns for their community's safety.
The Russellville patrol has been working out well for Wolken so far. He has enjoyed getting to know people in the community and tries to build a rapport with as many residents as possible. He most often faces narcotics violations, which he said is something almost every community confronts. Traffic issues are also a regular challenge, like motorists running stop signs, but he doesn't want to go too hard on the locals with long-held driving habits.
"You've got to police how your community is," he said. "If you stop everyone for running a stop sign that nobody stops at, you're going to make everybody mad. You've got to be a community police officer."
The deputy has enjoyed working in a more populated county like Cole and appreciates working in his home area, though it comes with its own set of challenges. "It's nice, but it's tough at the same time, because I've arrested people I've known who I used to be friends with. And I've met a lot of new people I didn't know were even in the community because they lurk under the shadows, so no one really sees them. It's a little awkward at first."
When asked what he wanted to tell children who also look up to police officers and may want to become law enforcement officers someday, Wolken replied with a laugh that even superheros have desk duties.
"No one tells you about the paperwork," he said. "I didn't find out about that until my first day. You may get 15 minutes of fun and two hours of paperwork."