A year after reserve deputies began patrols in Augusta, it appears it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
For the sheriff’s office, it means added resources and skills without hurting the budget.
For the deputies, it’s an opportunity to remain active in an occupation they enjoy on a smaller scale.
“There’s nothing else like it,” reserve deputy Matt Johnson said of the job. “I enjoy making a little bit of difference in Richmond County.”
Johnson left the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office for a job in information technology with Media General, hoping the new job would allow him more time to spend with his wife and two young children.
“I left in January and by July I was ready to come back,” he said.
It’s a story that’s repeated by most of the deputies who come back in the reserve program to work for free for 20 hours each month.
The unit hit the streets last August with 10 sworn deputies. The number has nearly doubled.
To anyone on the streets, they look the same as a full-time deputy, equipped with vehicles and guns and dressed in full uniform.
But there’s something more to these guys.
Not only do they have additional skills they can bring from their full-time jobs, but they bring a fresh set of eyes to their work, said Lt. Lewis Blanchard.
“The reserves come at things with a different attitude,” he said.
So far reserves have used their outside skills to help the sheriff’s office with communications and computer issues, assisted in boating and weapons training and even helped find corporate sponsorship for events.
The greatest benefit, however, is the added manpower.
“Our staffing can only go so far because of overtime limits,” Blanchard said.
That’s when the reserves come in. They can assist in numerous areas, like special events such as First Friday or serving warrants, without taking full-time deputies off their normal patrols.
Barry Davis is one of the reserves who left because of the pay grade but returned for the love of the job. Although he works full time as a mortgage loan officer for Georgia Bank and Trust, he said he hasn’t had trouble meeting the minimum hourly requirements per month to remain a reserve.
He makes up the hours in the nights and weekends and has assisted in narcotics, crime suppression and traffic.
“It’s a passion for me,” he said of the job. “The reserve program gives me an opportunity to serve the sheriff’s office and the community.”
The program expects to expand.
“Sheriff Roundtree is very happy,” Blanchard said.