SIOUX CITY | They do a lot of the same work sheriff's deputies do, but with a few twists -- for one, no paycheck.

Nevertheless, Woodbury County reserve deputies say they love the job.

"Traffic enforcement, fielding calls, I enjoy all of it," said Jereme Muller.

Muller and Steve Pickering, both of Sioux City, have been reserve deputies for two years and say they have blended in well with their full-time counterparts.

"They have all been open with helping us learn. They have treated us like equals," said Muller, who works as a talent agent and property manager when not moonlighting as a reserve deputy.

The reserve force has seven members, a number Sheriff Dave Drew hopes to increase. The program, which is funded solely by donations from organizations and individuals, has languished in recent years.

The County Board in July approved a plan to have up to 25 reserve deputies, a move that was overdue, Muller and Pickering said.

All but two counties in Iowa use reserve deputies to supplement their law enforcement presence. Former Sheriff Russ White Jr. founded the Woodbury County program in 1981.

Among reserves' primary duties are traffic control and security at local celebrations, such as the huge Saturday in the Park annual free music festival in Sioux City and the city of Anthon's 125th anniversary celebration in June.

"At RiverFest, I worked all four days and I probably put in 50 hours myself," Pickering said. "That's free time -- it didn't cost the county anything. The more guys and women that we can bring on, that is just added savings and being able to cover more events across the county."

In a switch from normal duties, Drew said the reserve deputies performed well in early October after a tornado plowed through the county. The reserves joined deputies going from home to home in affected areas to see if people were accounted for.

"When the tornado struck Woodbury County, we utilized them for several hours, and a number of them turned around and assisted with a youth event at the Sioux City Convention Center," Drew said.

Drew said the current reserve crew is composed entirely of men. Women are encouraged to participate, and have in the past, he said. Reserve deputies must work at least nine hours per month to maintain certification, but they don't get paid no matter how many hours they put in.

"We view them the same as a small community that relies on rural voluntary firefighters or volunteers with the ambulance," the sheriff said. "We recognize many of these dedicated people have families, and we always are so appreciative of their willingness to give back to the communities."

TRAINING APPROACHES 200 HOURS

Reserve deputies in Woodbury County undergo extensive training through the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. They must complete six modules within 18 months, covering 80 hours of training. Topics include hazardous materials awareness, motor vehicle laws, search-and-seizure methods, domestic abuse, stopping motorists, defensive tactics, writing reports, driving skills and criminal law.

They then must pass firearms training and ride along with deputies for another 80 hours. In all, it typically amounts to 200 hours of training.

Reserve deputies have the same powers as deputy sheriffs while performing their duties under the supervision of a deputy. However, they cannot issue tickets for driving while intoxicated due to the Iowa implied consent law. Under the law, drivers agree to have tests to determine their blood-alcohol level or the presence of drugs whenever a full-time officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is operating under the influence.

The reserves could operate radar guns to enforce speeding, but Drew chooses to have the county reserve deputies do other things.

"Most of my time is actually in a squad car patrolling with other (deputies)," Muller said.

Pickering, whose day job is as a school client services manager, has assisted deputies in giving tickets for open containers of alcohol but has not arrested anyone. He has issued warnings to motorists for speeding and not wearing seat belts.

"I think all of us that are very active with the unit, we carry it out very well," he said. "We've gotten multiple letters of commendation for the work that we've done for different organizations. I think we've proven to be a very strong asset for the department."

Until a few years ago, Pickering was chairman for the Greenville PAC, working on neighborhood improvements. In moving on, he wanted another public service challenge and decided to join the reserve deputy program.

Now, finding he enjoys law enforcement, Pickering is considering becoming a full-time county jailer or deputy.

Muller became a reserve deputy in early 2012 after finding he had more free time. He typically puts in 15 hours a week covering a variety of shifts, a schedule he said suits him.

Muller studied police science at Western Iowa Tech Community College right out of high school but entered a family business after his father had medical issues.

"I've always wanted to do this," Muller said. He finally took the step in 2011 after hearing Pickering was joining the reserves, too.

"I filled out my application the next day."

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County and education reporter

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