Ten new police officers joined the ranks of the Johnson City Police Department Monday, although unlike most on the force, their services are free and limited.
JCPD Chief John Lowry announced the beginning of a reserve officer program that he hopes will benefit the department in its goal to make the city the safest place to live as possible.
That goal is Lowry’s mantra, and this reserve program is just one more cog in the wheel.
“The big thing for me is officer safety and that’s one of the biggest reasons we looked at putting this program together,” Lowry said.
“The beauty of these guys and lady is they’re doing it for nothing.”
That may not be completely true. Yes, there’s no paycheck associated with being a reserve officer, but Buzz Martin said there’s payment in the form of satisfaction.
Martin, ironically, worked 12 years at the Johnson City Police Department, and when he left to work at Nuclear Fuels, Lowry was promoted to lieutenant and took Martin’s position.
Martin said once the law enforcement profession gets into someone’s blood, it’s hard to ignore. That’s part of the reason he chose to return to the field, even if there is not monetary reward.
Martin’s daughter, Deena Baldwin, said she’ll likely worry more now than she did when her father was at JCPD years ago, simply because she was just a youngster then.
Still, she’s happy her father has been able to return to something she knows he loves.
“I’ll worry, but I’m happy for him,” she said after watching him sworn into office.
The 10 reserve recruits just finished the initial part of officer training that included being recommended by an officer in the department, facing an interview board, a psychological exam, physical requirements as well as general orders, police procedure and firearms training.
In all, the officers will complete 204 hours of training once their next phase of riding shotgun with a field training officer is complete.
Four of the 10 reserve officers previously worked as a law enforcement officer — two at JCPD. Another is a JCPD corrections officer and one works as a Washington County 911 dispatcher.
Tesha Vaughn, the only female in the group, started at JCPD as a corrections officer three years ago. She hopes the reserve officer training ends up being a stepping stone for her to become a paid patrol officer one day.
“I love helping people,” Vaughn said. Becoming a reserve officer is “having my cake and eating it, too.”
The training has been rigorous, Vaughn said, but she’s ready to take on the next step.
Lowry said he isn’t sure where the reserve officer program will go from here. He’ll decide later if there’s a need to increase the numbers or keep the group small.
Aside from riding with an officer as a two-person unit, the reserve officers will provide additional manpower during Johnson City’s crowd-drawing events such as Blue Plum, Imoja, First Friday’s and the Fourth of July celebration at Freedom Hall.