Reserve volunteers lengthen law's reach
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:26 PM
"Lenny Marlborough started in law enforcement while he was still in the Navy. He spent hundreds of hours training and hundreds of dollars for his own uniform, leather gear and gun. He endlessly patrolled the streets of Oak Harbor.While he worked side by side with police officers, keeping the streets safe, there was one big difference between him and them. As a reserve officer, he didn't get paid.Things have come around. Nineteen years after after starting his career as a reserve officer, Marlborough is the Coupeville town marshal. Now he depends on unpaid reserve deputies to help run his department. Without them we would be hard-pressed to do a lot of the things we do, he said, like providing security during the Arts and Crafts show, sports games and while a Hollywood movie was filmed in the town. Being on the spot for those kinds of events, he said, takes a lot of man hours. More than the town could afford without reserve volunteers.And it's not just Coupeville. The Island County Sheriff's Office, the Oak Harbor police department and the Langley police department all run strong reserve programs and all benefit from the energy and dedication of the volunteer law enforcers.The programs put trained, armed and uniformed men and women on the streets and roads of Whidbey Island. They may look like police officers and act like police officers, but in fact, they are unpaid volunteers.In exchange, the reserve officers get a good taste of what it's like to be real officers, to see if they have the right stuff.Since the beginning of the year, the four police departments on the island have been running a four-month, 240 hour academy for reserve officers taught by officers from each department under the guidance of the state Criminal Justice Training Commission.For about seven hours Saturday, the reserve cadets performed mock felony traffic stops and building searches at the Monroe Landing fire station. Standing behind open car doors with guns drawn, the reserve cadets took turns talking the suspects out of the cars, leading them backwards with hands on head to where they could be safely approached. Island County Detective Russ Lindner, who's in charge of the academy, said the program is like a lesser version of the state police academy, but the reserve cadets will learn just about everything they need to be a cop.The topics range from communication skills, crisis intervention, how to deal with domestic violence and mental health situations, and criminal law to more glamorous stuff like gun-handling and car chases.The 16 cadets in the class, Lindner said, represent a wide variety of local people, from 21-year-old students to retirees, who all have one thing in common. They want to know what it's like to wear the badge.Mary Duysings, an Oak Harbor woman who works at a kennel, said she's in the reserve academy because she wants to make a career out of it. Many of her family members in California wear the uniform and she's always been fascinated by police work.This is one way to find out if you're dedicated enough, she said.Pat Kaczkowski is a more typical reserve cadet. He's a chief in the Navy, but was a police officer before signing up and wants to go back to law enforcement after he retires from the service.He said being a reserve officer is a good way to get a foot in the door.He's probably right. Four of the five deputies at the Coupeville Marshal's office were reserve officers before being hired. About 10 of the 40 officers at the Oak Harbor police department were once in the reserves, including Captain Rick Wallace and Detective Jerry Baker.Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley said half of his deputies were once reserves. The program, he said, gives the department a valuable pool of 20 or so potential employees. We train them for practically nothing and watch them perform for a couple of years, he said. Following last year's academy, Lindner said two of the new reserve deputies from Camano Island were hired as full-time police officers. To my chagrin, he said, after all that time we spent on them. Oak Harbor Police Chief Tony Barge said that the reserve program gives the department the chance to groom officers in-house for permanent employmentThe reserve cadets have to take a state-administered test at the end of the academy to become a reserve officer. Last year, Lindner said they all passed with flying colors. This year, about half of the new reserve deputies will be volunteers for the Island County Sheriff's Office and the other half will go to the various police departments of the island.Before entering a reserve program, each reservist must buy his or her own uniform, boots, leather gear, gun and bulletproof jacket. It can cost up to $2,000.Then the real work begins. At each department, the reserve deputies can work their way up, so to speak, to become more and more independent as they gain hours of experience.Barge said his reserve officers start out riding along with commissioned officers. But with 800 hours of training and experience, he said reserve officers are allowed to use a police car, patrol on their own and even hand out citations.Although the reserve officers don't help fill out the normal 24-hour patrol schedule - and don't replace regular officers by any means - Barge said they are a big help with events, traffic accidents and security details.At the Sheriff's Office, Lindner said there would be a lot of droopy-eyed deputies, or at least a whole lot of overtime, it if wasn't for the reserve deputies. They volunteer literally thousands of hours each year.The 27 or so reserve deputies in the department free the deputies to do other things, he said, by taking on such time-consuming tasks as handing out sex offender fliers or keeping crime scenes secure over the cold hours of the night.The reward? Beyond being a resume-builder, Lindner said the reserve program offers people a look into the other half of society.They get to see things and do things that not everyone does, he said. People are often shocked by what they see. We try to teach them that they are catching these people at their worst moments...For them, I guess it's a way to see the world beyond sitting on the couch watching the TV."