By Mark Waite
TONOPAH — Nye County commissioners Friday approved $126,450 to expand the sheriff’s deputy reserve program. Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall estimated it could save the department $108,000 the first year.
Marshall said there are several reserve deputies already, he hopes to expand it to 25 reserves the first year and ultimately 75 countywide.
“A reserve deputy sheriff is just like a full-time deputy except they’re not paid. They have the same responsibilities, the same authority. They just are not paid. They’re volunteering their time,” he said.
The reserves can help with detention, patrol a certain area, do highway interdiction or respond to calls for service.
The $108,000 savings is based on 25 reserve deputies each working three shifts per month. They are required to work at least 20 hours per month to keep their reserve deputy status.
“The timing is right because we currently have over 180 people that have expressed an interest in it,” Marshall said.
Marshall told county commissioners during the last testing cycles for regular sheriff’s deputies they had 155 candidates. He said 83 percent replied they would be interested in a reserve deputy program.
The funding includes $25,000 for training. Reserve deputies will have basic Police Officers Standards and Training POST certificates, Marshall said. If the county has an opening for a paid sheriff’s deputy, there will be a cost savings in having officers already trained, he said.
Sheriff Tony DeMeo and Marshall himself both started out as reserve deputies.
The Nye County Law Enforcement Association hasn’t objected to the use of reserves, Marshall said.
“There’s nothing in the union contract that prohibits it, second we’re not replacing full-time positions The reason we can’t replace full-time positions is the person donating their time has a full-time job they’re relying on to pay their bills. That has to come first,” he said.
Another $30,000 will go toward insurance, $19,375 for vests, $17,875 for uniforms and $16,250 for firearms to expand the program. The county allocated $13,200 for a part-time employee would be hired for 20 hours with no benefits to administer the program and $4,750 in dictation costs.
Nye County Manager Pam Webster said the program would be funded on a loan basis, the sheriff’s office would pay the savings back and keep what was left over.
Nye County Commissioner Joni Eastley was an enthusiastic supporter.
“I’ve been on the board long enough and in the Central Nevada area long enough to know that the reserve deputy program was absolutely wonderful. It took a great deal of pressure off of the general fund and I really appreciate you bringing this forward and I appreciate Sheriff DeMeo supporting it,” she said.
Eastley suggested the reserves could be used to work outdoor festivals. That would eliminate the cost to festival organizers, like when the Pahrump Alliance for Valley Economic Development PAVED was quoted $10,000 by Nye County Sheriff’s Capt. Bill Becht to provide security at the Pahrump Fair and Festival. That led PAVED to pull out of the event.
County commissioners are searching for ways to trim law enforcement costs. Commissioners voted 4-0 on Oct. 16 to refer Sheriff Tony DeMeo to the Nevada Attorney General’s office for prosecution for exceeding his budget by more than $1 million, but as of this week the AG’s office has yet to receive the case.
The Nye County Sheriff’s Department already has a 30-member auxiliary force, mostly retirees that help with traffic control, deliver citations, watch homes while residents are on vacation and help recover evidence. DeMeo estimated they accumulate 20,000 hours of service annually, equal to a third of his budget.
Marshall said comparing the reserve deputy program with the auxiliary program is like comparing apples and oranges.
Then there’s the volunteer Nye County Search and Rescue Unit, on call 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, which includes quad riders and radio technicians.