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Reno Public Radio is providing coverage of several local and state political races for this year's elections.For a look at national elections, NPR has provided special online coverage. Click here to see those stories.

Washoe Sheriff candidate's plan to recruit volunteers under scrutiny

An organization representing more than thirty law enforcement agencies across the state is voicing its concern for a proposal by Washoe County Sheriff Candidate Chuck Allen to revitalize the county's reserve deputy program, which currently has nine volunteer participants. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

Allen says the sheriff's office needs more boots on the ground since about 100 positions have been cut in the past several years.

"My intent is to recruit and train sixty men and women who are willing to serve as reserve deputies," he explains. "It's a very inexpensive way of putting more uniformed personnel to be able to respond to calls for service that are currently not getting the responses."

Ron Dreher is with the Peace Officers Research Association of Nevada, or PORAN, which endorses Allen's opponent Tim Kuzanek. Dreher says volunteer reserve deputies are best utilized in situations without an immediate threat, like search and rescue missions, and it's not appropriate for volunteers to be accompanying sworn officers for incidents like domestic violence or armed robbery.

"While it sounds like a great idea, it's not well thought out," Dreher explains. "It's very vague, and we do not want our officers, our reserve deputies, our citizens, or our community hurt because they're put in a situation that is deadly to them and they're not trained to do that."

If elected, Chuck Allen's plan to revitalize the reserve deputy program would actually call for training volunteers at the very same level that sworn officers are trained so they can safely perform every duty. Providing that level of education for volunteers could come with a hefty price tag, but Allen has found a way around that.

"Primarily, I would like to reach out to recently retired folks who have retired from local city, state, and county government because their training is still certified," Allen says. "The retraining that they would need to do would be very minimal."

PORAN's Ron Dreher served with Reno Police for 26 years. He describes law enforcement as a youthful profession and says he would not feel comfortable serving now.

"I'm going to be 66 years old in a couple of weeks, and I don't want me out on the street because that's not going to be appropriate for me to be responding to calls that I used to handle," Dreher says. "Somebody's going to get hurt, and I don't believe you're going to find a lot of retired officers that are going to jump on the bandwagon to do that."

Along with recruiting recent retirees, Chuck Allen would also seek out young men and women hoping to start a career in law enforcement.

Allen has served for decades with the Nevada Highway Patrol and the Nevada Air National Guard. His opponent Tim Kuzanek has worked for the sheriff's office the last twenty years and currently serves as undersheriff.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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