Security In Reserve

Published 6:40 pm Thursday, July 29, 2010

Anyone who ventures out during the Exchange Club Fair is sure tonotice a visible security presence.

Many of those law enforcement officers who make the fair a saferplace to be every year are volunteers. They give of their time tobe reserve sheriff’s deputies, which takes more than just signingup and putting on the uniform.

“The fair is probably one of our biggest things, we try to havebetween three and six officers there every night,” said ReserveCoordinator Art Likens.

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Each potential reservist has to pass an intensive courseinvolving physical training and classroom work, and that’s afterthe application process, the interview, and the backgroundcheck.

“It’s not like you’d think the reserves would be,” said reservedeputy Blake Wallace. “You’re running and doing sit-ups andpush-ups, and it’s like you do all you can do and then you do fivemore. They don’t take any slack just because it’s part time.”

Sheriff Steve Rushing said his reserves are expected to bewell-trained and professional, even if they are not paidofficers.

“They have to complete the part-time academy here or by thestate; before they’re even allowed to get out and represent thedepartment they have to be certified just like the regularofficers,” he said. “They donate a lot of time, and they’re a greatasset to me.

But the payoffs are worth it, reservists say.

“I’ve just always wanted to be in law enforcement,” saidreservist Justin Case. “It means a lot to me to be able to servethe community and help people when they need it.”

Likens said he’s heard a lot of different reasons for why peoplewant to become a part of the reserve unit, but recently he thinksit’s stepping up as a sign of the times.

“Most of the answers I get is to give something back to thecommunity, but a lot of people just want to get involved because ofthe way things are happening with our teenagers and drugs and it’sthings that are going on nowadays,” he said. “I think they want toget involved because they care about what’s happening outthere.”

And as such, Likens said he’s researched and found differentideas and ways to branch out with the reserves if the numbers andfinances ever get to where they need to be.

“I visited the commander of Hinds County to talk about some ofthe things they do, though they’re a lot bigger than we are andhave a lot bigger tax base than we do,” he said. “They have whatthey call a street unit, and these guys go out and work streetcrimes like prostitution, drug sales, felons with guns, thosethings that are involved that happen out there while the full-timeguys are busy doing calls and investigations.”

Likens said currently the reserves operate on around $6,000 ayear, and it’s all from donations. The unit buys its own uniformsand uses hand-me-down bullet-proof vests, as well as buying all itsown ammunition for the twice-yearly handgun qualifications.

“None of them complain, because they can go buy their own ifthey can. But they’re firemen, they’re Army reservists, they’refrom all walks of life, and some of them don’t get paid a lot,” hesaid. “Its hard to spend $600 or $700 on a vest if you’re justvolunteering your time.”

So eventually, the reserve unit will be exploring the idea ofholding fundraisers, because there are definitely situations wherethe volunteers are in harm’s way as well, and updated protectioncosts money.

“We’d like to do some fundraisers to offset that cost. We’re allmarried and have families and we still get involved, and help ondrug interdiction or whatever the sheriff needs help on,” Likenssaid. “Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a routine trafficstop. It could be anything, and you’d like to have an updatedvest.”

But with applications coming in for the next reserve class,which will take place in the fall, Likens said he’d like to seemore minorities and women apply. But no matter who the applicantis, there are intangibles that matter.

“You have to do what you have to do sometimes, but if you’re asmart aleck we don’t want you,” he said. “We definitely askquestions of the applicants because a lot of things are going tohappen out there.”