Danielle Wiseman hopes that her experience as a reserve sheriff’s deputy will prepare her for a career in law enforcement.
But more importantly, she hopes to feel the satisfaction of helping people in need, whether in responding to a car accident or helping at a house fire or performing any of the other tasks that might come her way as a volunteer officer.
“There’s no better feeling than knowing at the end of the day that you helped somebody and knowing you made a difference in somebody’s life,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman, 25, is a full-time criminal justice student at Ivy Tech Community College. She also is one of five reserve deputies in training for the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.
The reserve program has 15 volunteer deputies who commit to training and serving the community in the same ways as full-time sworn officers — except many of the reserves also work separate full-time jobs and volunteer during their personal time.
The program recently underwent a leadership change with the retirement of veteran reserve officer Glenn Wakefield, who served for about 30 years. Dana Vogt, a former commander of the reserve division, has stepped up to lead the program.
“I feel strongly about (the program), and I think that’s pretty consistent among all reserves,” said Vogt, who is executive director of the global supply chain for the Cummins Inc. Turbo Technologies unit.
“The community gives us so much (that) it’s our duty to give back.”
Reserve officers serve in every capacity within the department.
They work as correction officers in the Bartholomew County Jail, patrol the roads, respond to incidents, file reports and provide security for community events such as the recent SALUTE! concert and the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair.
The officers work about 5,000 hours a year, responding to an average of 1,300 calls on the road, and they have the same powers as full-time sworn officers, known as merit deputies.
All at little cost to county taxpayers.
Vogt estimates that the county would pay about $250,000 a year if full-time deputies were performing the same work as volunteer reserve officers.
The reserve division is trying to expand to about 25 officers so that it can help out more, Vogt said.
Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett said reserve deputies are an invaluable resource.
“We couldn’t operate without them,” Gorbett said. “You can look at them as reserves, but when a brown uniform shows up to help you, there’s nothing different between them and a merit deputy.”
Gorbett, who has served with the department for three decades, said the reserve program has been around for at least as long as he has.
Before they can work on their own, reserve deputies must complete a 40-hour academy, which includes learning police protocols, state laws and other procedures, and go through field training with experienced officers. They also must tackle simulations that include emergency driving and firearms.
The entire process can take more than two years, Vogt said.
After that, reserve officers must continue training at least 24 hours each year, although they usually complete more than 50 additional hours.
Reserves also must pay for their uniforms and the tools of the job. The cost can reach $1,500, but the reserve division tries to reuse uniforms to help defray costs.
The sheriff’s department provides weapons, badges and bulletproof vests, but reserve officers buy their own shoes and any unique items they want, such as additional badges or custom holsters for their weapons.
Vogt estimated the typical investment for individual reserve deputies at $400.
Vogt, a 21-year reserve veteran, said the time and financial requirements are significant for volunteers, but the investment pays off when they assist someone in need.
“Typically, when people think of being a law enforcement officer, they think of red lights and sirens or giving speeding tickets,” Vogt said.
“Those are necessary parts of the job, but the best to me is when I have helped a family broken down along the interstate or someone writes a thank-you letter. It means so much.”
He recalled a situation two years ago in which he found an elderly man whose vehicle had stalled on Interstate 65.
The man had been reported missing by his family in Tennessee, and Vogt helped reunite them.
Vogt said it was a unique encounter, because the man was a World War II veteran who had served at the Battle of Iwo Jima — experiences that he shared with Vogt while waiting for his family to arrive.
“There’s a lot of times you go out and there’s nothing going on, or it’s bad weather and there are a lot of accidents,” Vogt said.
“But every once in a while, you do something that makes everything worthwhile.”
Lanette Hobbs, a reserve deputy in training, said she applied to be a full-time merit deputy last year and made it onto the sheriff’s hiring list before other circumstances required her back away from the full-time job.
She still wanted to be involved and joined the reserve program after talking to the sheriff.
“I’ve just got respect for our nation’s law enforcement. Always have,” said Hobbs, who also is a mother, works a full-time job and goes to school part time.
“You want to make a difference in the community. I want to be a positive role model for children.”
Wiseman said she hopes to have similar positive experiences as other reserves when she finishes her training and begins to serve the community.
She was drawn to law enforcement after riding along with officers.
A close friend and full-time deputy, Jessica Pendleton, encouraged Wiseman to get involved with the reserve division.
“Seeing the things that reserves do along with the merit deputies, I would like to be out making a difference,” Wiseman said. “Most people really appreciate what they do for them.”
Gorbett said reserve deputies “help out immensely” as the sheriff’s department responds to an escalating number of calls each year.
Last year, the department responded to about 40,000 calls, double the volume from a decade ago.
The department has done so without adding more full-time merit officers. But, Gorbett said, he can count on reserve deputies.
“They get spit on just like any other deputy in a fight with a drunk, but they don’t get paid for it,” Gorbett said.
“It’s a great undertaking. I can’t thank them enough.”
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