Working alongside career law enforcement personnel, sworn reserve deputies play a key role in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
They work on everything from patrol to surveillance to investigations.
And they do it for free, on top of their often-fascinating day jobs.
In honor of Volunteer Recognition Day on Saturday, April 20, Behind the Badge salutes all of the OCSD reserves. Lt. Richard Nelson oversees the OCSD’s Reserve Bureau, which recently was absorbed into the agency’s Mutual Aid Bureau. The 149 OCSD Reserves worked about 50,073 hours last year.
“I would like to personally thank all of the men and women of the Reserve Bureau,” Nelson said. “They are all great individuals who sacrifice their personal time to make a difference in their community.”
Nelson makes sure the 149 OCSD reserves – sworn and non-sworn – receive the training they need.
“As well as being fiscally responsible for all of Orange County’s citizens, the men and women of the Reserve Bureau are a vital part of our department and all of the services we provide. I am proud of all of them. They deserve recognition not only on this day, but every day they put on the uniform. They truly are making a difference in our community.”
In addition to sworn reserve deputies, the OCSD has volunteer reserves who serve as Professional Service Responders (PSRs). The department’s 199 PRSs perform many different tasks, from “Fire Watch” in the canyons, shuttling cars to and from the garage for maintenance, clerical work, graphic design, stats, as well as assisting with crime prevention programs. They contributed 27,277 hours in 2018.
Explorers, another category of non-sworn reserves, assist the OCSD with parades, traffic control, paperwork, and go on ride-longs in patrol. They also help with community programs throughout Orange County. The 253 Explorers put in about 40,450 hours last year.
And chaplains, who represent nearly all faiths, provide comfort and guidance to OCSD employees and county residents. The 15 OCSD chaplains contributed 3,839 hours last year.
Together, all of these volunteers save the OCSD more than $5 million by donating their time and talents.
Here are mini-profiles of four sworn OCSD reserve deputies.
Day job: Captain, United Airlines; he flies domestic routes for the airline. He also is a 14-year Air Force pilot, flying as either a reserve or a member of the Air National Guard.
Years as an OCSD reserve: Almost two. Was a full-time Irvine PD officer before that for two years and also served as a reserve officer for the IPD.
What he does as an OCSD reserve: He is a K9 handler for a bloodhound, Remi, and is a pilot and tactical flight officer on the OCSD Duke helicopters, which are part of the agency’s Air Support Unit.
Hours per month he serves as a volunteer OCSD reserve: Typically, 70-100. Most of those hours are callouts with Remi, and about a third is with the Air Support Unit.
Why he does it: “Just the variety of assignment for reserves here. We have reserves in nearly every facet of the department, and that’s pretty unique. Typically, reserves will augment traffic or patrol. It’s very rare to have opportunities as reserves to go outside of those two main functions.
“I started off as a full-time police officer and I love law enforcement. I love the interaction with the community. I like the feeling that I’m making our community better for our children.”
Memorable call or assignment: In 2017, when he was working patrol, he found a missing young woman who had attempted suicide and helped revive her before paramedics arrived.
Family: Wife, Kristin, an occupational therapist and a volunteer for an organization that runs camps for children with special needs; a 3-year-old daughter, Colette.
Quote: “I can’t do this without the support of my wife. She’s incredibly supportive.”
Why volunteering is important: “I feel I’ve been given lots of opportunities in life, and I think everyone has a responsibility to give back to the community. We live in a great country.”
Day job: Forensic Scientist for the OC Crime Lab, a division of the OCSD. She works in the DNA section and also does crime scene investigation.
Years as an OCSD reserve: Eight
What she does as an OCSD reserve: She’s a reserve captain in the Corrections reserve unit. Prior to that, she was a lieutenant in the Southwest Operations reserve unit.
Hours per month she serves as a volunteer OCSD reserve: Usually, about 30
Why she does it: “I always had been interested in a career in law enforcement. I went into forensics and then I thought, ‘You know, I could do more.’ I like learning new things, and I like helping my department and my community in any way I can”
Quote: “I feel like there’s always something new to learn and I love helping not only the community but also my own colleagues. I feel like it’s the best of both worlds because I get to learn new things and keep active and I also get to help those around me.”
Why volunteering is important: “I think it’s important for people to volunteer because then they become engaged with their community, get involved and make a difference.
Day job: Civil attorney specializing in complex business and real estate litigation. He’s also an Associate Judge on the Intertribal Court of Southern California.
Years as an OCSD reserve: 18
What he does as OCSD reserve: Oversees the Investigative Reserve Unit as a Reserve Captain and works as an Investigator in North Investigations, where he investigates general property crimes.
Hours per month he serves as a volunteer OCSD reserve: 60-80
Why he does it: “I think the biggest motivator was wanting to be a part of the law enforcement community. All of my life, I have been a protector. In my full-time job as a civil litigator, I am a champion for the rights of people who get harmed in some way, and here at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, I get to do that in a different way and it’s quite satisfying.
“As a reserve, there’s an immediate satisfaction in being able to help someone. When you do that, it’s quite an exceptional feeling. Also, I love the camaraderie working side by side with my fellow law enforcement brothers and sisters. I’m honored to work with them.”
Memorable call or assignment: Serving on a joint federal task force with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, he helped investigate and arrest people for violating environmental crimes against the United States; one memorable arrest occurred on a cargo ship where the ship’s captain was arrested onboard for illegally dumping oil into the ocean and then falsifying his records.
Family: Wife, four grown children, seven grandchildren
Quote: “I’ve been with this department for 18 years, and I enjoy it as much now as the first day I started.”
Why volunteering is important: ‘There are so many reasons to do it. We are blessed with talents and the opportunity to do this, and not everyone can do this because of the time commitment. We’re blessed with families that understand the passion we have for doing this type of work.”
Day job: Software engineer
Years as an OCSD reserve: 16
What he does as OCSD reserve: He’s a reserve lieutenant for OCSD’s search and rescue team. He’s a flight medic and hoist operator for the agency’s Rescue Helicopter program.
He also runs a ground mountain rescue team that takes him all over the state.
Hours per month he serves as a volunteer OCSD reserve: 20-100
Why he does it: “I wasn’t so much drawn to law enforcement as I was drawn to the aspect of helping people in their worst times or helping families in the worst times. I’m drawn to situations where people need help, and I can provide that help.
“There’s no tangible reward. It’s just the reward of self-gratification or just a sense of wellness and happiness I get from serving somebody else and providing comfort for a person or a family in a critical time.”
Memorable call or assignment: Many. He was on a recent successful search for a couple found on Mount Baldy. He’s done so many, it’s hard to select.
Family: Wife, Melissa, a medical clinic worker, and two grown children
Quote: “When I’m home, I’m totally dedicated to my wife. I’m with her. We turn off our phones and do things together. There’s no TV. And it’s the same with my kids.”
Why volunteering is important: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
Day job: Licensed psychotherapist with a private practice specializing in forensic and criminal evaluations, as well as a general practice
Years as an OCSD reserve: 10
What he does as OCSD reserve: He’s a reserve captain in the Mutual Aid Bureau (formerly the Reserve Bureau). He primarily works patrol in the north patrol area and does a lot of transportation, picking arrestees up in the field and handling a lot of the bookings in jail.
He also has done a lot of talks at OCSD events.
Hours per month he serves as a volunteer OCSD reserve: 50-60
Why he does it: “I was drawn to become a reserve deputy because of my desire to serve the community, to give back in a certain way and to do something that had a level of intensity and enjoyment that would suit my personality.”
Memorable call or assignment: When he had to inform a family (father and three children) that the victim of a major traffic killed in front of their home was their mother.
Family: Married to a forensic psychologist and a nurse, Miriam; no children.
Quote: “The importance of having reserves in patrol is that it allows us to have a second deputy in each car, which allows us to better deal with more dangerous people.”
Why volunteering is important: “I think it’s good for your character. It’s good for yourself to give without necessarily getting something back or being at work. And it’s also good for the community. It’s also more fun and more motivating when you do things because you want to.”