Since being selected as the chief of police for Delta four years ago, Robert Thomas has dealt with a steady stream of officers coming and going. Officers have left for a variety of reasons — some have found positions in other agencies, while others have decided to leave law enforcement to pursue other career interests.
Recently the department lost one of its sergeants to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. Two officers plan to apply for a vacancy in the Grand Junction Police Department.
When the department is short an officer or two, remaining staff members are often required to work extra shifts. Keeping a lid on overtime costs has been a major challenge.
To hold employee salaries within budget, the Delta City Council has approved the use of fully qualified volunteer reserve officers to augment the Delta Police Department.
During a presentation to city council, Chief Thomas explained that reserve officers are willing to work without pay to maintain their Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, certification. They will be covered by worker's compensation.
Reserve officers who meet the department's criteria will provide support to the DPD in its day-to-day service to the community and during emergencies. They will be required to perform 20 hours of service each month, which includes attendance at all required training and meetings.
Reserve officers will work with POST certified supervisors, and their uniforms and ID will be clearly marked "RESERVE." Chief Thomas explained one of the big differences between reserve officers and full-time employees. Unlike full-time officers, reserve officers will not carry a weapon when they're off duty. Full-time peace officers are considered on the job regardless of the time or day.
The only question raised by council members concerned a requirement that reserve officers live within a 15-mile radius of Delta. There is no such requirement for the DPD's regular officers, council members pointed out. Chief Thomas said the intent was to ensure the reserves would be available quickly in an emergency.
Council members also approved an internship program designed for high school juniors and seniors and college students. Chief Thomas explained that the department once had an Explorer program but it was dropped due to budget constraints.
Chief Thomas believes the internship program would be an investment in the youth of the community. During the 20-hour program, they would learn how city government works and how the police department operates.
Chief Thomas says he anticipates one to five interns who would ride along with officers and handle basic administrative duties at the police department and possibly city hall.
"What I like about this program is that it can touch on a variety of topics within law enforcement, from police officer to paralegal to 911 dispatcher," said city manager Joe Kerby.
Chief Thomas said he believes the internship will help change the negative perception young people have of police officers.
"It would be excellent for public relations," council member Bill Raley agreed.
Although council members could not take formal action on the proposals during their work session, support was unanimous for both the reserve and internship programs.blog comments powered by Disqus