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Jeffco Sheriff’s Office’s volunteer reserves lend a helping hand

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By Deborah Swearingen

If you spot him working security at the Jeffco courthouse, Don Spears looks just like any other Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy.

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And when it comes to training, he pretty much is. But unlike other Jeffco deputies, Spears is not paid to be there. He’s part of the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy program, though, visually, nothing sets him apart other than a small reserve patch on the shoulder of his dark green uniform.

“All (the general public) sees is the uniform, the badge and all the equipment,” said Sgt. Rich Fleming, volunteer services coordinator with Jeffco. “To them, it’s just a deputy. Same as any other deputy.”

Currently, there are 34 people in the volunteer program, which has been around for more than 40 years. Reserves help with anything from courtroom security to providing support at community events or assisting other agencies during a major wildfire.

The reserve deputy program saves the Sheriff’s Office money and time. Last year, the reserve deputies saved the officers from approximately 6,000 extra-duty hours.

“We are here to support the full-time deputies out there. Basically, to fill in, to do tasks that might take them off patrol, off the streets. To basically help out in any way we can,” said Spears, who lives in South Jeffco.

But the reserve deputy program is about more than that. It is also a form of community outreach that saves nonprofit organizations and the like from spending money on deputies to work events.

Certainly, it is about more than that for the reserve deputies. They view it as a form of community service.

Why they do it

“It’s a way of giving back to the community. I’ve been doing this for, like I say, a long time,” said John Schmidt, 71, of West Arvada, who’s been a reserve for 43 years.

Schmidt works with Jeffco’s mounted patrol and can remember one instance while patrolling in Clement Park when a young boy decided he wanted to be a police officer after seeing Schmidt on his horse.

“The general public won’t talk to an officer in the car and sometimes a motorcycle,” he said. “But when you’re out there with a horse, they come up to you. They want to talk. They want to know more about the department, and it’s a good way for us to tell more about our reserve program.”

Although Dan Reich of Littleton has been a reserve deputy for only a few months, he’s already noticed — and appreciated — the people who stop to thank him for his service.

“It just makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you’re doing something important,” he said.

Reich, 70, and Spears, 65, both come from longtime careers in the aerospace engineering industry, and both were curious about law enforcement. They see the reserve deputy program as a way to scratch that itch.

After graduating from training in February, Reich has been dipping his feet into the water and trying out all that the reserve deputy program has to offer.

“ … I’m new. There’s a lot to learn. I feel like I don’t know anything yet,” Reich said. “It’s constant. It’s just a fire hose of information, but I enjoy it a lot.”

Training

Training to be a reserve deputy looks quite similar to Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training that a full-time police officer would go through to serve.

For those who are not yet retired from their paying jobs, training includes four-hour sessions two times a week as well as regular hands-on skill-set training on the weekend. The most recent academy began in September and concluded in February.

Additionally, there is a written test, an oral board, a polygraph test, physical agility and a two-hour psychological profile.

“It’s a big commitment,” Spears said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.