Deputy reserves needs people

The Monongalia County Sheriff Deputy Reserves is recruiting and is a great way to give back to the community, see what the other side of law enforcement looks like, or start a career in law enforcement, according to the county sheriff.
“It’s such a vital part of the department,” Sheriff Perry Palmer said.
Reserve deputies are volunteers who can help with parades, funeral escorts, transporting medical hygiene patients and juveniles, watch people in the hospital and more.
The formerly booming reserves, which had as many as 15 at one point, is down to just Chief Luis Tolka. In July, the program’s former chief, Merritt Walls, died at the age of 91.
“Walls was here for, almost to the day, 24 years,” Sgt. Tony Bise, the deputy in charge of the reserves, said.
Even after he stopped going on the road, Walls would do paperwork to help out, Bise said.
Palmer said his death was a huge loss not just for the department, but for the community.
The program was started by Palmer in 1994 or 1995 when he worked under the late Sheriff Joe Bartolo, he said. Palmer said he approached Bartolo about starting the program because other counties had similar ones and with so few officers on the road — back then only two or three a shift — having to transport mental hygiene patients or do funeral escorts really hurt.
Applicants to the deputy reserves must be at least 18 years old, have a driver’s license and no felonies. Palmer said misdemeanor convictions are not an automatically disqualification.
After applying and passing a criminal background check, Bise and Tolka will interview the candidate. If the interview goes well, Bise will speak with Palmer about them and decide whether or not to hire them.
Once on the force, Tolka will spend 60 hours training the new deputy reservist in all of the various duties they can perform. Part of the training includes how to operate a cruiser, which has “a lot of buttons,” Bise said. Other training involves self-defense training, pepper spray training, how to handcuff people and radio etiquette.
The 60 hours of training also doubles as a probationary period and Bise follows up with people who’ve interacted with the reserve deputy.
“I’ll ask questions of the different places where they’ve done things,” he said.
Once the training and probationary period is over, the reserve deputy is expected to work 16 hours a month. There are lots of opportunities to get those hours — there is a funeral escort almost every day.
In addition to funeral escorts, transports and sitting with patients in the hospital, reserve deputies are sometimes asked to patrol certain areas to provide a visible presence in the area, such as a neighborhood on Halloween or an area that’s received a lot of calls lately.
“I’ve called Luis in the wee hours of the morning, ‘hey you wanna work?” Bise said.
Tolka has been at it for nine years and said he originally joined to try something new and meet new people.
What’s kept him at it for so long?
“It’s just something that I like to do,” he said.
To apply, visit the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department on Walnut Street between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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