Considering the state requirements to be a reserve police officer in Missouri, Cape Girardeau is fortunate to have a dozen highly trained men willing to step up and volunteer to fill gaps in the regular force.
And, most remarkably, they do it without extra compensation.
At one time, the reserves were for young men trying to figure out whether they really wanted, or were suited, to become police officers.
Today, the reserve force, once at 50 members, includes a university professor, a canine specialist, an insurance investigator, two former state liquor control agents, two security experts and former officers. The youngest is 32.
Together, they donated 1,000 hours of service to the department last year.
Their duties are diverse and sometimes dangerous. They may work security at parades and fairs. But they may also take part in sting operations.
They ride on patrols with other officers at least once a month, and they sometimes fill in for officers who call in sick.
And for the privilege of donating their time, they must undergo the same testing, background checks and licensing exam as a full-time police officer and pay for it all themselves.
A law passed last year raised the requirements for reserve officers to the same level as career officiers.
The reserve officers make the sacrifice for a variety of reasons.
Mike Brown is a former police officer and now a professor in the criminal justice department of Southeast Missouri State University. Serving as a volunteer helps him keep in touch with what officers deal with on a day-to-day basis, he said.
Others quit the law enforcement profession for more lucrative and less dangerous occupations but can't totally leave police work behind.
They volunteer even though they know their work won't be appreciated by some they encounter.
"It's one of the most thankless occupations," said reserve officer Kenny Pincksten, a former liquor control agent. "Most of the people you deal with don't care a whole lot for you."
No matter what their reasons, the community owes the members of the reserve force a debt of gratitude.
The police department is looking for more qualified members to be a part of the volunteer team. Interested persons can call the department at 335-6621.