BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – The Lee County Sheriff’s Department is looking at doubling their staff this year, but it’s only going to cost to taxpayers a maximum of $13.
The Fort Madison Police Department is currently accepting reserve officer applications, but Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber is reviewing 13 new candidates that may join his department’s corp of reserve deputies.
Weber, who himself came from a reserve position with the Keokuk Police Department, said the reserves save the county money and also provide a wide range of services to the county from traffic enforcement to helping execute warrants to full on investigations.
Scott Edwards, who works a private job and helps regularly with enforcement and other tasks of the department said he does it just as a way to give back to the community.
“For me, it was when I was younger I always wanted to be police officer, but things change and you get different jobs,” Edwards said. “As you get older you realize you can’t do it full time so now it’s just a way to give back to the community.”
Edwards said he went through about 122 hours of classroom work and 40 hours of supervised time and he’s elevated himself to a step 3 reserve. At that designation, Edwards can come in, grab a vehicle, and hit the streets in the county doing directed patrols or serving as back up to the regular officers. He can also issue tickets and make arrests, if warranted. The only things deputies cannot do is handle implied consent with those suspected of OWI.
“Our program is a step program and you progress to step 3, you can make traffic stops. We can do everything a regular deputy can do except we can’t do implied consent,” Edwards said.
Weber said the department doesn’t require physical training like the physical training the police department does.
“We don’t require that for our reserves, we’re just up front with them about what our expectations are. But if you come in here and you’re huge – its not that we don’t appreciate it, but we have to be able to count on you doing certain things and if you can’t, it’s probably not going to work out.”
The department currently has six reserve deputies, but the sheriff said in a perfect world the reserve staff would be the same size as the full time staff, in essence, doubling his personnel.
“We use them to augment, like rodeo or traffic enforcement grants,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll team them up or if they’re advanced like Scott, we don’t have to team them up. He knows what he’s doing and he can go out on his own. If he’s the third guy on a night and doesn’t need to be with them, he can take the car and go on his own.”
Weber said the department usually has a minimum of two deputies on patrol at any given time, but the reserves can provide back up to the two full-time staff.
“There are guys out there now that will try taking on two deputies, but not many will take on three, maybe if they’ve been drinking heavy, but not many,” Weber said. “These guys save a lot of money and you don’t know how important they are. People like Scott, Jeff Krebill, Gayle “G” Williams – I don’t worry. I know those people are going to watch our back just like Will or any deputy would. They go out and do their job and people don’t know they aren’t on staff.”
“Guys out here like Scott, we don’t have to tell them what to do. They know and the fact that they can do that in uniform and no one knows the difference is invaluable. These guys just don’t wash cars and fill up the tanks, they’ll go on task force warrants and they don’t ask a single question. They go to the briefing and they go get the job done. We don’t have to ride herd on ’em.”
Edwards, when outfitted for patrolling, looks like any other deputy fully armed with a sidearm, taser, and protective equipment including a kevlar vest. He said most of the equipment the reserves purchase themselves, but some is bought with fundraiser money.
Weber said he won’t allow reserves to wear vests that are expired.
The reserve program started officially under Sheriff Buck Jones in 2005, Weber said there were some special deputies prior to that who held gun permits and could be called upon by the sheriff’s department. He said the number of deputies was higher in 2016, but not a lot of activity was being done.
“I think we’re doing just a bit more to encourage some more of that,” Weber said.
The additional manpower on county roadways is proving dividends. The sheriff’s department has had 510 motorist contacts in the first two months of 2018. In 2016, the department had 663 for the entire year.