Ian Heye, Contributing Writer
Watch out students! In the next year, there will be a new sheriff on campus, but not in the way you’d expect. This new police officer won’t be a tall intimidating man with a mustache, but rather the friendly face of Merel Visser, junior, criminology and criminal justice, a student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and a swimmer for the Lady Triton’s swim team.
Visser has wanted to be a cop since she was a little kid and her passion hasn’t changed through the years.
“When I was younger I always wanted to be a cop. I looked up to them,” said Visser. “I want to be able to help people and help them feel safe.”
In an era where police officers have become public figures to fear, Visser wants to help in the relief of that fear and show that not all cops are bad.
“I want to try to make a country safer and better at the beginning. The justice system is not always fair, and I want to show people that most cops have good intentions,” said Visser.
Although Visser is from the Netherlands, she wants to work in the United States because she feels there are too many police officers in the Netherlands and there are more opportunities here to make an impact. Additionally, the Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis is in need of 150 police officers. This was a major factor for Visser in her decision-making process to stay in the United States. But her impact on others doesn’t start with her being in her uniform patrolling town, but rather in the pool on the new swimmers. Stephanie Schoemans, freshman, biology, is one freshman that Visser has greatly affected.
“She is the kind of leader that doesn’t need a big speech to have people follow her example. She is open-minded, kind to everyone and is always positive in practice,” said Schoemans. “When I first started swimming with her, she made me feel a part of the team by being super friendly. It gave me the impression that she is one of the happiest people on the team.”
Being a super positive teammate really helps the morale of the team; no matter how hard a practice is, Visser is always there for her teammates. But at one point it was Visser who was seeking support.
“In her second year, she had a hip injury and she had to stop swimming for a while,” said Tatiana Vanegas, senior, fine arts. “But she pushed through the pain and kept working hard in practice. The passion she brought to the team was incredible. The whole team got behind her at the end of the year and she ended up qualifying for nationals.”
Visser has been described by her teammates as hard working and passionate. Another person who never hears the end of her love for being a police officer is Abriana Herndon, sophomore, nursing.
“She’s very dedicated to her work and passionate for it, too. When she first became a cadet, she couldn’t stop talking about how excited she was to start working and even now when she is working, she is still very excited about her work,” said Herndon.
Even though Visser is not a team captain, she sets a good example for the team. Head Coach Tony Hernandez is proud of what she’s done in and out of the pool.
“She sets a great example with the intensity she brings. She knows how to show joy in practice while also bringing a ton of focus. She’s also a great example of what a Triton athlete is! She strives to be more than a student athlete,” said Hernandez.
Visser will be a police officer one year after she finishes college and she want to begin her time on duty by being down to earth with the citizens of St. Louis.
“I first want to work on the streets for a while, talk to people and inform them about the police so they feel more comfortable around officers,” said Visser, “I want to reach out to as many people as possible.”
Visser wants to do nothing but help the citizens of St. Louis and recognizing that being a police officer instills fear into people is a major first step. With her excellent leadership ability on Triton’s swim team and positive attitude, Visser is the one to make a major change in the St. Louis community.