Win-win: Assistant chief says MCPD’s revival of reserve program good for town, officers

Jeff Bobo • Jan 11, 2017 at 12:22 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — Hunter Jones isn’t earning money in his position as the Mount Carmel Police Department’s lone reserve officer, but he’s taking home something of value.

Jones, who completed the police academy and earned his associate’s degree in criminal justice this past year, is now earning road-time experience in law enforcement, riding along full time with a Mount Carmel police officer.

Last year, the Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to revive the MCPD’s reserve officer program, which was disbanded shortly after former Mayor Larry Frost was elected in 2012.

At the time the program was disbanded, it had 14 reserve officers, many of whom have gone on to careers in area police departments, sheriff’s offices and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Jones, who is the son of Mayor Chris Jones, joined the department in December and is currently the MCPD’s lone reserve officer.

That may change soon, however. The MCPD will host a meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at the fire station on Hammond Avenue for anyone interested in becoming a reserve officer.

Applications will be available during that meeting, and potential applicants will be told everything that’s expected and required of them to become reserve police officers.

“The reserve program is a fantastic opportunity to give back to the community, and that’s really what I want to do, to serve the community,” Hunter Jones said. “We ride along with full-time and part-time officers and assist them in traffic stops, to calls — just about anything they get into during their normal patrol duties.”

He added, “It’s a great place to start because you’re able to get training out here on the road and get a feel for what law enforcement actually is on a day-to-day basis. You can utilize that training if you stay at our department or if you go somewhere else. This training will come in handy when you transition into a part-time or full-time job.”

But Jones is also learning that police work isn’t just about making arrests. Shortly after joining the MCPD last month, Jones began working on the department’s Christmas Toy Drive and fundraiser to benefit disadvantaged families.

“That’s probably the best overall utilization of the reserve program recently,” he said. “You got to see the families and see the reaction that they have.”

He said the only surprising thing about police work so far is the amount of paperwork.

“You have to document everything,” he said.

MCPD Assistant Chief George Copas is overseeing the revival of the reserve program, which dates back to the late 1970s.

Copas said the program is a win/win for the city and for the volunteer reserve officers.

The city benefits because its officers are safer by having a partner to watch their backs.

And the reserves are gaining experience and knowledge that will not only be useful on their resume, but in their later career if they become professional officers.

“It’s basically a foot in the door to introduce them into law enforcement,” Copas said. This experience is going to show you what being a police officer is all about and hopefully help you make up your mind whether or not this is the career you want.”

MCPD reserves are required to take 80 hours of training before they can ride with an officer.

Mount Carmel is the only municipality in Hawkins County with a reserve police officer program. The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office also has a reserve program that carries about 10 reserve deputies at any given time.

They’re trained, they’re armed and they can write tickets and make arrests. Copas said the main difference between reserves and regular officers is they don’t work alone, and they don’t get paid.

“They’re sworn police officers, but they’re not on the payroll,” Copas noted. “It’s just like a volunteer firefighter. They do everything a full-time professional firefighter can do, but they’re volunteers and they’re not getting paid.”

Copas said he’s hoping to build Mount Carmel’s reserve officer roster up to around 10.

“Having two officers in one vehicle is a definite benefit for officer safety,” Copas said. “One of the key components we’ve utilized reserve officers for is like when we have the block parties — when there’s high demand of an officer’s presence. We’re very short-handed as it is, so it’s nice to have a reserve officer pool that we can pull from.”                                       

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