Bring on the reserves, sheriff's department revitalizing force
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Henry County’s Sheriff’s Department is looking for a few good men and women.
Its reserve deputy ranks are thinning and Sheriff Rich McNamme and Chief Deputy Dan Wesely are putting out the call to rebuild the reserve unit.
“One of Rich’s priorities during the campaign was to rebuild the reserve unit to full force,” Wesely said.
Just four reserves currently dot the roster, which has an authorized strength of 15.
The first step in rebuilding the ranks is an informational meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Henry County Emergency Management Building, 900 W. Washington St., in Mt. Pleasant. Any county residents interested in becoming a sheriff’s deputy are encouraged to attend.
To be considered for this position, a person must be a Henry County resident between the age of 21-65, possess a valid Iowa driver’s license, be of good moral character as determined by a thorough background investigation and fingerprint search and be a high school graduate or possess a GED equivalency certification.
In addition, the applicant’s vision must be corrected to 20/20, have hearing corrected to normal hearing standards and meet the necessary physical requirements.
Wesely, who has coordinated the reserve program for the past 20 years, said this is a new experience.
“This is the lowest (in terms of numbers) that we’ve been since I have been doing this,” Wesely said. “We have never had to recruit before. We have usually filled spots through word of mouth.”
Eleven men and/or women are needed to fill the ranks. If more desire to serve, a waiting list may be established, Wesely remarked.
Once the candidates are selected and appointed by the Henry County Board of Supervisors, they undergo 18 months of training. Previously, the training was done at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, but now the sheriff’s office will do its own training.
Due to the fact that many of the applicants have other employment, Wesely said training will likely be evenings and weekends. “They will be trained by full-time deputies and other professionals,” he explained. “This is the first time we will do the training, so we are still working out the arrangements and scheduling.”
Candidates also will be required to pass a written test as well as qualify with firearms.
Wesely said the reserve officers greatly benefit the department and county. “They are a real asset to the sheriff’s department as well as the county. The work is not always glamorous, but beneficial.”
Those selected will not be able to officially work until they have completed the training and passed required examinations.
Once they finish the training and exams, they can perform all the duties of sheriff’s deputies with the exception of the implied consent procedure in operating while intoxicated arrests.
Reserve officers are uniformed, badged and carry a firearm. Clothing and equipment is furnished with the exception of shoes.
“It is really a big commitment to keep an organization like the reserves and even more of a commitment when we will be doing our training in-house,” he noted.
Nearly all Iowa counties have reserve forces. Henry County’s reserve patrol began as the “Sheriff’s Posse” on July 12, 1977. The first county reserve officers were Joe Halferty, Dean Herrick, Ernie Bright and Pete Messer.
Wesely said the reserve ranks have thinned recently due to members relocating and retiring.
Reserves are requested to work eight hours per month. They are paid $1 annually. However, they are covered by the county’s workman’s compensation and liability insurance.
More information and reserve officer applications will be available at the Feb. 12 meeting.
Although Wesely is launching the recruitment campaign, he will not be able to see it through. He is retiring March 30, ending his 38-year law enforcement career (nearly 36 years with the sheriff’s office).