Cooler than candy-striping 

Looking for a little excitement, and maybe the chance to make some extra cash on the side? No, don’t flip to the Personals section. This opportunity is as straight-laced as they come: The Missoula County Sheriff’s office is accepting applications for new reserve deputies until 5 p.m. on Sept. 30.

Because the reserve deputies are volunteers, says Sergeant Pat Estill, there tends to be a high turnover rate, so the Sheriff’s Department recruits annually. The department has about 40 reserves right now (three of whom are women) and 16 applications so far.

Each applicant undergoes a criminal background check, as well as written and physical tests, and successful applicants go on to complete 88 hours of state-mandated training—mostly in the classroom.

After that, “Reserve Deputies wear the same uniform and have the same arrest power as full-time Deputies while on duty,” reads the Sheriff’s Department’s announcement.

But comparing the training and assignments of reserves and regular deputies is, says Estrill, “comparing apples and oranges.” Regular deputies complete 12 weeks of formal classroom training followed by 17 weeks of field training. Reserve deputies always operate under the supervision of a regular deputy, says Estill, and do sometimes find themselves enlisted to help out in “felony situations.”

So who are these volunteers who pitch in with everything from traffic stops to incidents such as the 1996 Alberton train crash that had I-90 blockaded for weeks?

“We have architects, surveyors, people who own their own businesses,” says Estrill. “Typically you have people that want to be reserve deputies for the excitement of it,” he says, “or just to give back to their community. Or, you have people trying to augment their income.”

While reserves don’t get paid for performing any function of a regular deputy, they can be hired out to other agencies to, say, provide security at a Griz game. When rowdy Griz fans started “tearing up the bleachers” at the game against Hofstra two weeks ago, says Estrill, reservists were on the scene along with University police and a few city officers.

Now that’s excitement.

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