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Culver reserve program puts citizens on patrol

The eight-officer police force gets good reviews from locals
News Editor
   What do a school bus driver, locksmith, and farm boy all have in common?
   In Culver, they're all police officers -- ordinary Joes volunteering their labor to keep the city's streets safe by walking the beat.
   Last October, the city's police department, formerly a one-man show, launched a reserve officer program.
   Today, the Culver Police Department is eight officers strong.
   Police Chief Lee Farrester, who got the force off the ground after assuming his post July 1 of last year, says the city couldn't ask for a more hard working group of individuals.
   "The cool thing about these guys is that between working regular jobs they're going to school 16 hours a week and putting in a combined 140 hours month as reserves," Farrester said. "And they all love Culver."
   Although the seven reserves aren't paid for their work, six of them have their tabs picked up by the City of Culver for the education they receive at a reserve academy in Bend.
   In April, most will earn their Certified Reserve Officer certificate.
   "They learn everything that a full-time sworn officer learns," Farrester said. "Some will go on to full-time work, some will stay forever."
   Culver Mayor Dan Harnden said the beefed up patrols were a longtime coming.
   "A couple years ago we did a survey to find out what the community wanted and on the top of their list was more law enforcement," Harnden said. "But unfortunately in a small town like ours the budget is not there.
   "But when Lee came along he had the experience and we found money in our budget to send them to academy school."
   Having extra bodies available allows the Culver Police Department more flexibility. Most reserves work between 8-16 hours a week allowing Farrester to mix up his hours and fill in the holes with reserves so that someone is on call virtually every hour.
   "People enjoy the fact that we're here helping the community," said John Ford, an assistant manager for Hertz Rental Cars at the Redmond Airport. "Our presence is comforting to them. They haven't had this kind of coverage from police in some time."
   There are five levels of reserves. Each on the Culver police force is at least level II status.
   Sgt. Bobbie Richardson, a level III reserve, and Rick Hilton, at level IV, each are Jefferson County Corrections Officers in their day jobs. Their higher rank allows them to perform solo patrols whereas the others must be accompanied by Farrester.
   "We're definitely a community oriented department," Hilton said. "The community can reach out and touch us."
   Wes Richardson, a locksmith who owns Wes's Lock & Key, said he'd like to take the venture all the way.
   "I'd like to get a full-time job out of this," said Richardson, who's also a volunteer firefighter. "I see this as going full time before I could get a full-time job in the fire department without moving."
   Cecilio Galan, a 509-J bus driver and educational assistant for special needs children, brings a valued presence to the force as a member of the Hispanic community and a bilingual officer.
   "That's one of those reasons I wanted to be involved," Galan said. "I want to be involved to help represent the Hispanic community.
   "People who come from Mexico or other parts of America think bad things about the police because of how the police in Mexico treated them. So they're often scared but that's not true here. We're here for support and help."
   What does Galan enjoy most about his job? "The team we have."
   Brady Stickler, a 27-year-old truck driver, recently earned the nickname "farm boy" from his colleagues.
   "They call me farm boy because I don't watch baseball and I said I wasn't going to watch the Super Bowl," Stickler said.
   Said Farrester: "Brady is the bicycle nut. He can't wait until summer so he can go out on bike patrols."
   All humor aside, most of the reserves intending to become full-time officers know full well that the job isn't always an easy day at the office.
   On Dec. 5, Ford was on patrol with Farrester when the car-train collision that killed four members of a beloved Culver family. He and his boss were the first people on the scene.
   "That was a day that was going to make me or break me but I learned I could make it in this business," Ford said.
   The presence of the new officers has not been lost on Culver's downtown business owners.
   Tanya Robinett, a bartender at the Round Butte Inn, said she is pleased with what they've been doing.
   "Vandalism has really mellowed out," she said.
   "I have absolutely nothing but high regard for those folks," said Ed Webber, owner of the Culver Market. "They're really on top of things -- patrolling town more and things are really quieting down around here."
   Some business owners have even sold the department supplies, including bullets, at cost.
   Farrester said the reserve force enjoys a special relationship with the community.
   "We're not out here to ruin people's fun," he said. "We're here to be part of the community. I want people to know we're here for them."