Officer Program

The Yankton Police Department (YPD) is well on its way to establishing a reserve officer program.

During Monday’s meeting of the Yankton City Commission, the board voted unanimously to approve such a program for YPD. The city’s approval allows it to be considered by the Law Enforcement Standards and Training Commission of South Dakota

YPD Commander Jason Foote explained to the commission what the program would entail.

“It’s not just putting a badge on and a uniform and sending them out on the street,” Foote said. “They’re going to be required to do 106 hours of training through our department. The cost of that is a uniform, vest and a gun, but otherwise they’re a volunteer for the department and they’re helping with special events and community relations. It really builds on what we’ve already started working in the community and trying to get them to accept the police department a lot more than they have in the past.”

Foote said that the department will begin with two officers for the time being.

He added that, under most circumstances, a reserve officer would be partnered with another officer.

“They have the same arrest authority as a regular officer would, but they will always be partnered — unless they have certification in retirement, someone who’s already certified.”

YPD Chief John Harris said he’d had some experience in a similar program in Arizona.

“I’ve been involved in a reserve program for over 32 years as a volunteer game warden in Arizona, so I know the value of that program,” Harris said. “It’s literally serving the community that you actually are part of and adds lots of value to the agency as well. One of the things that happened in Arizona is, if people wanted time off, I could go in and fill a shift for them.”

Foote said the department has looked at other municipalities to see how they operate their own reserve programs.

“Most of them do the same thing that we’re kind of looking for,” he said. “They’re using them for special events — big things like county fairs and jazz fests. Some agencies are starting to use them as pre-hiring where they’re getting the applicants that want to be in law enforcement and they’re getting their foot in the door and a feel for it themselves before they actually go out and pursue the career.”

He said that the application regimen will be the same as for other officers and that each reserve officer will be required to take 96 hours of continued training each year.

Yankton County Commissioner Gary Swensen made an appearance during Monday’s city meeting to speak in favor of the reserve officer position. He had previously served as a reserve deputy sheriff under former Yankton County Sheriff Dave Hunhoff.

“There were seven of us that were reserve deputies for Sheriff Hunhoff in the ‘80s,” Swensen said. “It was extremely rewarding.”

Mayor Nathan Johnson praised the idea.

“I think it sounds like a great way to utilize the resources we have in the community to assist our police department, help them be successful and provide for the safety of our community,” Johnson said.

Commissioner Dave Carda was absent during Monday’s meeting.

In other business Monday, the commission:

• Held a work session to discuss the 2020 municipal budget. Commissioners did not need extra time after the regular commission meeting nor will they need time allotted today (Tuesday) to discuss the budget further.

• Approved three municipal bicycle trail easements along West City Limits Road.

• Approved cable television franchise extensions for MidContinent and Vast.

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