- The St. Joseph Police Department is accepting applications to fill three position in the department’s police-reserve program. From left to right are Police Reserve Coordinator Matt Johnson; resident and former St. Joseph Police Chief Bill Lorentz; and St. Joseph Police Chief Pete Jansky.
- St. Joseph Reserve Police officers are sworn in during the 1970s. From left to right are Herman Schneider, Bob Simon, Randy Honer, Terry Schwab, Tom Pflueger and Elmer Rakotz.
- St. Joseph Reserve Police officers wait to be sworn in for duty in the 1970s. From left to right (first row) are Herman Schneider, Bob Simon, Randy Honer, Terry Schwab, Tom Pflueger and Elmer Rakotz; (second row) John Knevel and Daniel Meinz.
by TaLeiza Calloway
The men and women who serve as reserve police officers are more than volunteers. They are an extension of the St. Joseph Police Department.
They undergo the same training as full-time police officers do and work alongside them in the field. While the Reserve Police Force was designed to recruit and train civilian officers to assist the department, they are part of a law-enforcement team. All vow to protect and serve.
The St. Joseph Police Department is accepting applications to fill three positions on its reserve police force. There are six officers in the program now — two women and four men, St. Joseph Police Chief Pete Jansky said.
“When we’re at full complement we have nine officers,” Jansky said.
Participants train for 30-60 days before their assignment begins. Those interested in serving as reserve officers must be 18 years old or older, be free from any criminal record and have a valid Minnesota driver’s license. Police Reserve Coordinator Matt Johnson said training for the position is ongoing as each situation an officer may face is different while on duty. Reserve officers must be ready to assist and prove to be reliable partners.
“Every time you go to a call, you learn something different,” Johnson said. “We have to have enough trust in them to feel comfortable with them backing us up in a call. Trust is huge.”
Johnson said those who serve as reserve officers have an interest in the law-enforcement profession so the feedback he receives on the program is often positive.
History of service
Bill Lorentz created the police reserve program in March 1972. The St. Joseph resident and former St. Joseph police chief decided it was time to add more experience to the ranks. The first group of civilian officers included eight men, with two of them serving as cadets.
“I decided it was time I get some people to work who had training,” Lorentz said. “I spent a lot of time training on police procedures . . . (but) I was always giving them speeches that they were in service and there to help.”
They thoroughly knew the city and could tell anyone where all the stop signs and fire hydrants were located because they were tested on it, Lorentz said.
“They did a good job,” Lorentz said. “They were dedicated.”
Back then, men trained in horsemanship, patrolled streets with a German shepherd dog and were allowed to carry a pistol and drive squad cars solo. A license is required to carry a weapon today. Reserve officers work in pairs with full-time officers and ride a sometimes ride a bike rather than a horse.
When Jansky worked as a full-time officer, reserve police officers would ride along with him and share their knowledge of the city. It was helpful then and it is now.
Several of the men who started in the police reserve program in the 70s furthered their career in law enforcement. Such is also the case for those serving decades later.
John Knevel, one of the cadets in the originating reserve officer program, went on to serve as a police officer for the city of Mankato and served as police chief in the city of Rockford, Lorentz said. Daniel Meinz, another former St. Joseph cadet and reserve police officer, served as the Centerville deputy sheriff.
A dependable asset
Reserve police officers see what all officers see. They are held to the same data-privacy standards. Though they do not carry hand guns or patrol solo as officers in the 70s did, their training includes the use of deadly force, taser, hand-cuffing and non-lethal force.
Some of the areas reserve officers assist the department include transporting people to jail, or watching a crime scene. They are also often on the scene during incidents when needed.
“They were and still are a very important community asset not only to the residents but to the officers,” Jansky said. “We have very good longevity. Part of it is they enjoy doing what they do. It’s very much a team effort.”
Those interested in serving as reserve police officer can call the St. Joseph Police Department at 320-363-8250. Applications are also available at St. Joseph City Hall. The deadline to apply is Aug. 15.