BLOUNTVILLE - Nine Sullivan County Sheriff's Office reserve deputies now have enough training that they can patrol the county alone, without the oversight of a paid deputy.
The new aspect of the department's decades-old reserve program has the potential of saving the county thousands of dollars - if not more - as well as countless man-hours, Sheriff Wayne Anderson said.
The deputies, who volunteer their time at the sheriff's office as their full-time job schedules allow, will primarily answer calls of a lower priority but that still need the attention of a trained officer.
Some of the types of calls the reserve officers will answer are mailbox vandalism, parking lot vehicle crashes, smoke or odor investigations, trees down across the roads during storms, mental patient transports, or late reports such as a days-old theft.
But Anderson also said that if a stand-alone reserve officer is the nearest one to a more serious call, that officer will be dispatched to the scene.
"If we have an armed robbery and they're the closet car, they're going to get sent out," Anderson said.
The nine officers will also help the process servers serve criminal summonses, and they're certified to operate radar equipment. They also have arrest powers and can issue traffic citations.
Anderson said the reserve program is a great investment for the sheriff's office.
Reserve officers have to furnish all of their equipment except their department-issued firearm. Lt. Brian Hill and Lt. Terry Wexler said they've invested $1,400 to $1,500 in their equipment so they can be reserve officers.
Both also recognize the dangers of their volunteer work.
"It's not a volunteer job for everyone," Hill said.
Nonetheless, he said it's "satisfying" to do his part to give back to his community.
"You get an inward reward" for your service, he said.
While Wexler and Hill are two of the nine reserve officers who have reached a level of training that will allow them to answer calls alone, there a total of 40 reserve officers in the entire program.
Hill said he knows of at least 10 who are nearing the level of training necessary to hit the streets alone.
To reach the level of Hill and Wexler, who are Level 5 reserve officers, requires a minimum of five years in the program - Wexler has 10 years and Hill has 12 years - and nearly 400 hours of training.
Anderson said it's likely some of those reserves could be paid officers for the department someday.
Since becoming sheriff in 1998, Anderson has already hired some reserve officers onto the force.
For more information about the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office's Reserve Deputy Program call 279-7500.