by Logan Gruber
A round of applause greeted four young men at the city council meeting on Feb. 2.
Brent Fandel, Nate Honkomp, Shane Johnson and Gary Lauer were all sworn in as St. Joseph Police Reserves by Mayor Rick Schultz at the Monday night city council meeting. These four join four other reserve officers, for a total of eight volunteers.
Police Chief Joel Klein was in attendance as usual, but was joined by Officer Matt Johnson, the reserve officer coordinator for the police department.
Shortly after the start of the meeting, Mayor Schultz called the four men forward to raise their right hands and take their oath. Each of the newly minted reserve officers then shook hands with the mayor, the chief and Officer Matt Johnson.
Reserve Officers Johnson and Lauer have lived in St. Joseph for about six years each; Fandel lives in St. Cloud and has been studying criminal justice; while Honkomp lives in Avon.
Shane Johnson had considered being a police officer earlier in his life, but ended up choosing a different path. He chose to become a reserve now after reading about the reserves in the Newsleader.
“I wanted to find a way to help my community,” Johnson said. “I’ve always had a passion for law enforcement.”
Originally from the Alexandria area, Johnson and his wife moved to St. Joseph about six years ago for work.
While the job can be dangerous, Johnson and his wife spoke about it, and felt joining the reserves was the right decision to make.
Chief Klein said typically he likes reserve officers to make a minimum of a one-year commitment, though some stay much longer. The reserve officers receive a lot of training before taking their oath, including taser training, defensive tactics, and the use of the baton and mace.
“We train them like police officers would be trained, but not to the fullest extent – they’re like a mini-version of us,” Klein said. “They can pretty much carry everything police carry except for a gun.”
Reserve officers carry handcuffs, tasers, batons, mace and radios, and wear bulletproof vests while with regular officers.
They can’t arrest anyone though. At least without permission.
“We have to direct them,” Klein said.
Typically, reserve officers act as extra eyes and ears for the police. Klein said sometimes they are needed to simply keep an eye on a person or a location while the other officers are busy with something else. They’re used mostly in the spring and fall, and on the weekends. And of course, they’re needed to help with the traffic during the 4th of July celebration.
Klein said while most volunteers see being a reserve officer as a way to serve their community, some also get the added benefit of experience in a possible career field, like Fandel.
“‘What’s a good way to get experience?’ Join the reserves,” Klein said.