Senior Reservists Keep Police On The Beat

October 18, 1990|By Jennifer Keats | Jennifer Keats,Contributing writer

Joe Hogue, 67, worked as a trust officer at Mercantile Bank for 45 years and said he never really imagined himself as a police officer.

But now Hogue puts on a uniform and volunteers 50 hours a month directing traffic and answering phones -- all jobs that help keep paid officers on the street.

"I really enjoy it," he said. "I just put my hours in and this is a good way to put my time to use."

Hogue is one of 38 county police reserve officers who donate their time to the department. About a dozen of them are over age 55, said Officer Bob Switzer, the program's coordinator.

Besides directing traffic or answering phones, reserve officers dress up as McGruff the Crime Dog, fingerprint children and sort mail -- time-consuming tasks essential to the department, he said.

Switzer said the reservists are important because they fill jobs that otherwise would be done by officers taken off the streets.

"They do a fantastic job," he said.

Reserve officers do not carry guns or make arrests.

Switzer said the senior members of the reserve unit work much more than the required 16 hours a month. As a group, he said, they put in about 2,000 hours a year.

Hogue, for example, logs more than his required hours, Switzer said. A 1986 graduate of the reserve unit training program that began in 1982, Hogue does much of the work for the department's Project Care.

Project Care is a public information service that uses the reservists to help keep in contact with people whose homes have been burglarized, Switzer said.

First, crime prevention literature is sent to the victims and a follow-up security survey, often performed by a reservist, is provided free. Reservists make calls from county police stations or from their homes to see if the victims can provide additional information about the break-ins or if they remember stolen items not listed in initial police reports.

"I really enjoy the hours the most," Hogue said. "It's pretty much of your own choosing."

Ben Robertshaw, who is in his "late seventies," does much of his work in the Southern District police station and logs more than 130 hours a month, Switzer said.

Reservists receive awards, such as hash marks. For every three years of service, a reservist receives a hash mark, which can be sown on a uniform.

The reservists also receive ribbons for working their first 192 hours each year.

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