Six citizens joined the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to do unpaid work similar to career deputies, with several big differences.
The volunteers are part of the Sheriff’s Office Auxiliary Program, which recently resumed after shutting down in 2016.
“It helps us tremendously,” said Major Jeff Driskill of the Auxiliary Assistants.
Patti Baggarly, Randi Eitzman, Steven Guizar, Bennie Jost, Jonathan Lovins and Donald Orye graduated on October 6.
Auxiliary MPs receive the same theoretical and practical training as other MPs, although they do not have the power to arrest and charge individuals and perform their work without pay.
They are always paired with a paid assistant and are prohibited from operating a cruiser, a skill that requires training on a track, usually at a Department of Criminal Justice academy, Driskill said.
Sheriff Mark Butler decided to relaunch the program in order to reach the public.
“He wanted to open up our office and expand exposure to the public through our office,” Driskill said.
Sgt. Roger Vorous, who is also the agency’s chaplain, coordinated the over 200-hour training.
The training includes, for example, how to perform a traffic stop and the potential problems that may arise during a check, Driskill said. It also includes learning how the court process works.
“It’s pretty intense,” Driskill said of the training. “It’s a lot.”
Auxiliary assistants were in the field with their paid counterparts on Thursday to make sure drivers and passengers were wearing their seat belts and to prevent impaired driving or distractions, Driskill said.
“They are introduced to the same dangers and dangers of the streets as a normal MP,” Driskill said. “And the same virtues.
Auxiliary MPs can also help staff events, like the County Fair, allowing paid MPs to take to the streets, Driskill said.
The recent graduates bring their experience of military leadership, special units, intelligence, communications and public safety, according to a press release announcing the relaunch of the program.
Guizar, 45, is pastor of the Front Royal Church Of The Nazarene.
He was asked to help with chaplaincy work in addition to other duties.
“And I said, ‘yeah, it’s in my alley,” Guizar said. “That’s just how I’m wired.”
Although he took all the training in his spare time, Guizar said the training was thorough and provided valuable insight into the work of MPs.
In addition to assisting with law enforcement, Auxiliary MPs are good ambassadors for the agency and law enforcement in general during tough times in the country, Driskill said.
Auxiliary assistants can provide a civilian’s perspective on the challenges of wearing the badge while carrying 40 pounds of equipment during pursuits and searches, said Driskill.
“Instead of a lifetime law enforcement officer who attended and heard their story, you hear the story of your neighbor, your school teacher, or someone else in the your community, ”Driskill said. “Hear their side of what it is.”
The addition of auxiliary officers was not intended to address personnel shortages, Driskill said. The department has 74 sworn members and currently has three vacant positions.
The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office also has an ancillary program with 14 deputies in August.