"Small counties with limited resources, like Clay County, their law enforcement departments come to rely upon reserve deputies," Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "Having the reserves be a part of our department is like having four extra deputies on duty throughout the year. They're a great bunch of people who do a wonderful service for our community."
Reserve Deputy Chris Robinson is president of the reserves' not-for-profit organization.
"Reservists come from all walks of life," Robinson said about the men and women who bring a wealth of experience from their various work backgrounds. "We have people who come from all kinds of jobs, like factory, construction and clerical jobs. Several reserves also have medical experience because they have received EMT or first responder training from other agencies."
A person interested in becoming a reserve deputy at the sheriff's department will go through the same interview process and background check that a paid deputy does, but, according to Robinson, in the future reserve candidates could potentially go before the Merit Board.
Once accepted, a reserve deputy is responsible for purchasing their own equipment; a uniform, bulletproof vest, equipment belt and a handgun at a cost of more the $2,200.
Robinson said that reserve deputies rely on the generosity of fellow officers handing down used uniforms and equipment to help out with the costs, but some things can't be.
"We recently received new bullet proof vests, which are a safety grade level higher than the our previous vests," Robinson said, explaining that the previous safety vests were more than 8 years old and they only had a limited 5-year warranty because of the wear and tear on the Kevlar. "We really appreciate the Clay County Council approving funds in the sheriff's budget to help purchase the vests."
Robinson said the community residents and organizations also helped purchase the vests by providing the group donations through the year.
"We are really thankful to everyone for their support," he said.
Heaton appreciated the support as well.
"I'm really glad our reserves were able to get new vests. They need the added safety and protection these vests provide," Heaton said. "They're out there in the line of fire just like the rest of this department. I think people would be surprised to learn what the reserves do for this community."
Although reserves do serve civil papers, perform traffic and foot patrol duties at community events, Robinson said reserve deputies are not just traffic cops.
"Reserve deputies are involved at all levels of law enforcement work in Clay County," Robinson said, adding that reserve deputies also testify on behalf of the state during court cases they have helped investigate. "We get called out at all hours of the day and night. When the phone rings, we go just like the rest of the department -- only we don't get paid. We do it because we want to help serve and protect our fellow neighbors in the community."
In order to do the job right, reserve deputies are required to participate in interdepartmental training classes designed for the reserves each month and participate in regular training classes held for paid deputies in the department.
Robinson said there is a strong bond between paid deputies and reserves at the Clay County Sheriff's Department.
"It's a team effort out there," he said. "We are all working for the same thing, the safety of Clay County citizens."
But the team effort doesn't just stop there.
"We are really grateful for the understanding and support of our families," Robinson said. "And we're really proud to be recognized as an extension of law enforcement in Clay County."