CCSD approved for federal block grant

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF

   The Carter County Sheriff's Department (CCSD) has been approved for a U.S. Department of Justice Federal Block Grant of about $12,525. Application was made in July for the grant.
   Each jurisdiction is allocated a certain amount of money, according to CCSD Chief Deputy James Parrish. "The City of Elizabethton got around $13,000," he said.
   "In order to attach this money, we have to attach it to a project. The project that we've attached it to this year is the Carter County Sheriff's Department Reserve Program."
   According to the grant proposal, "The Carter County Sheriff's Department proposes to implement a program where citizen volunteers can supplement the policing duties of our department. The citizen volunteer will go through a hiring process the same as any full-time officer. The minimum standards as set down by the Tennessee Police Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) will have to be met.
   "An extensive training program will be implemented. This will include training on all the constitutional duties of the sheriff's department. Upon completion of the POST-approved training program, the reserve will then be required to complete a field training officer program. Then the reserve will be issued duty gear and will be allowed to assist in support functions of the sheriff's department."
   The money, Parrish said, will be used "to supplement our current reserve program. Our reserve program has not been funded until now. Before, the person who was volunteering had to buy all of their uniforms, all of their equipment, their duty gear, their weapon. Most supplied their own bullet-proof vests.
   "We're now going to set the training up, and we're going to fund it as far as the money will allow us to go. If they're good enough to volunteer their time, we're going to be good enough to properly equip them, properly train them.
   "They will initially receive a 40-hour block of training on the jail. They'll have to put their time in volunteering in the jail. Once they test out and do a jail Field Training Officer (FTO) program, then they'll be allowed to move into the patrol end of the program. They'll go through another 40-hour block of training and go through the Field Training Officer program and be put on the road. They will receive 80 hours of total training, plus work their way through the FTO program."
   With the exception of an additional eight weeks of training at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy in Donelson, training for reserve officers is the same as training for full-time officers.
   "I'll be one of the training coordinators for the department," said CCSD Deputy Brad Johnson. "In training the new reserves that's accepted into the program, one of the major objectives is to give qualifying training to where, when they have completed the training, they will be as qualified as our regular road officers or officers here in this department."
   The training is two-fold, according to Johnson. "One, it gives an opportunity for a male or female that would want to venture into the criminal justice change of employment because of layoff or whatever," he said. "It is also a good resource and feeder for this department. We have had several reserve officers that have successfully completed this program that are now at Highway Patrol, our local city and adjacent county departments. It may not have been 100 percent the contributing factor, but it was a factor in their qualifications."
   Prospective applicants for the reserve deputy program, according to Johnson, must be agile, "be well-learned and eager, meet minimum requirements in their education, and pass the Civil Service test, and background and psychological investigations. They have to qualify in every way as the regular officer on the road does to get to the state academy. There is no difference between the two."
   The objective, according to Johnson, is "when we have reserve officers working with full-time officers, that you as the public or another law officer cannot tell me the difference between a full-time and a reserve officer. They're both highly-trained and know their jobs.
   "It better serves our public. That way, the taxpayers in the county gain the advantage of this program. For one, the high cost of sending them to the academy right off the bat is unbelievable. That means we get the resource of their manpower to aid and assist our jails, our administration, our personnel and also on the road, special events, ball games, and other community functions which need the presence of law enforcement officers, these people would be highly-qualified to do that. They would be under supervision of a full-time officer."
   The training will include several phases, Johnson said, including "administrative, working inside the jail and incarceration areas, and patrolling. There will be some small investigation training. There's also abuse, domestic violence and drugs. It's unlimited. Also, there's things they have to be able to physically do."
   Some individuals become involved as reserve officers because it is a way to begin a law enforcement career, according to Johnson. "They have greater aspirations to venture out and be on the road, or they may want to be an investigator, but there are routes you have to take before you get to those positions," he said.
   Others become reserve officers to serve the community in a volunteer capacity. "They want to be qualified," remarked Johnson, who said prospective reserve deputies must be at least 21 years old and have no criminal record. "They want to be part of a public service. They are interested in and acclimated to law enforcement. It's attractive to them. They are a great service where they volunteer their time. There are minimum hours that they have to put in monthly, expenses out of their pocket. There are no salaries involved in this."
   The reserves are "monitored constantly, because in this type of work, a fallacy may cost a man's life or the public's life so we don't want to jeopardize either one."
   The CCSD currently has approximately 20 reserve deputies.