WAUKESHA -- The Waukesha Police Department is in the midst of a recruitment process for its reserve unit.
The Waukesha Police Reserve Unit is made up of 28 civilians who assist officers. They’re unpaid, unsworn volunteers who do not carry weapons or have the authority to arrest anyone.
Lt. Joe Hendricks, the Waukesha PD’s Police Reserve Liaison, said the reserves began as a civil defense group and eventually morphed into an auxiliary police force following the World War era.
“They’re citizens willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with our sworn personnel and provide support,” Hendricks said.
He said volunteers are armed with pepper spray as a defense mechanism and wear uniforms.
Hendricks said the reserves undergo monthly training in tasks like CPR, crowd control, traffic control, and the operation of emergency vehicles.
They can assist at crime scenes, but only with tasks like securing the perimeter.
“They’re our extra eyes and ears out in the community,” he said.
Hendricks said assistance with basic operations like traffic control frees up more officers to respond to emergency scenes or go out on patrol.
Last year, the Waukesha Police Reserve Unit logged more than 1,700 hours of total volunteer time. Hendricks said each reserve must volunteer at least 50 hours each year.
“From a police officer’s perspective on what's going on in the nation, it's really cool to see that,” Hendricks said.
In recent weeks, police officers have been killed in attacks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas. That violence came in the wake of deadly shootings of civilians, by officers, in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Hendricks said the police department is conscious of the current climate and would never put the reserve unit in harm’s way.
“We purposely put them in different uniforms,” Hendricks said. “That's to distinguish them so people understand they are volunteers."
Mark Luling, who’s volunteered for the reserve for almost nine years, said he enjoys playing a part in keeping the community safe.
“This is my way of giving back,” he said.
Luling also said he hopes the debate ongoing around the country about police-community relations won’t deter other civilians from taking an interest in how law enforcement works.
“This gives anybody an opportunity to see what policing is really like from the inside,” Luling said. “Not just what you see from the outside.”