Carrollwood and Northdale residents who’ve always wanted to wear a badge and carry a gun have an opportunity to try law enforcement on for size without committing to a full-time job.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is currently recruiting Reserve Deputy II volunteers. These volunteers serve a minimum of 20 hours a month and are assigned to work with a variety of units, including vice, DUI, canine, warrants, selective enforcement, aviation and more.
Reserve deputies are trained by the county and go through a modified version of the law enforcement academy, said Master Deputy Marty Prickett, the reserve program liaison for the sheriff’s office. When all is said and done, volunteers are auxiliary certified as law enforcement officers with the state, he added.
For practical purposes, Reserve II Deputies are the “same gun toting, badge wearing” officers that are on the county’s force, Prickett said. “They’re the same as us.”
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While reserve deputies are certified with the state and are able to patrol streets and work in a variety of capacities, there are some differences, Prickett pointed out. These deputies aren’t paid, and they must work under the supervision of a full-time deputy.
Reserve Deputies Have a Big Impact on the County
Hillsborough’s volunteers provide the county with two main benefits: extra manpower and financial savings.
Last year, reserve deputies logged 50,000 hours of volunteer service. That amounted to $1.4 million in savings to the sheriff’s office, Prickett said. That doesn’t include about the $500,000 the county would have had to pay out in full-time benefits if these positions were filled by full-time employees, he added.
The benefits to the county extend beyond dollars and cents.
“We’re behind the curve (on staffing)," he said. "They help out tremendously when we have open zones and need the help.”
The sheriff's office has about 100 Reserve II Deputies on its current roster.
Volunteers Get More Than They Give
Volunteer Capt. Sue Balter has been with the program for 21 years. She once thought of pursuing a career in law enforcement but decided that serving as a reserve suited her well.
“It’s really the best volunteer job that I’ve come across,” she said. “We’re allowed to work within almost any of the units in the sheriff’s office.”
During the course of her volunteer career, she’s worked with warrants, the narcotics unit, done “a little bit of undercover work. It’s been quite a variety. The experience and education is just phenomenal.”
The opportunity, she said, is a great one for anyone exploring law enforcement as a career. Prickett, in fact, started out as a volunteer, he said.
Reserve work is also perfect for anyone that just wants to give back, Balter added.
Balter admits that some people might question why anyone would want to volunteer.
“Some people could call us a little crazy,” she said. “It gives you a sense of pride. You give back to the community.”
Reserve II volunteers are asked to go through a rather lengthy training program. They must also meet a number of requirements, Prickett said.
Volunteers need to be at least 19 years old. They must pass physical and psychological exams. In addition, they must make it through a number of interviews, pass a background check and go through a five-month academy program, which the county pays for. Should a volunteer make it through the program and want to go on to become a sworn, full-time deputy, they’d just have to double back for a few extra classes at the academy, Prickett pointed out.
“It’s scaled back (the academy), but not by that much.”
To find out more about becoming a Reserve II Deputy, just visit the sheriff’s office’s website and click on “Reserve Deputy” under the employment tab. Questions can also be directed to Detective John Richards at 813-247-0873.
The sheriff’s office also has a Reserve I Deputy program, which is open to sworn law enforcement officers. These positions are typically filled by those who have retired from full-time service.