Minneapolis Police Reserves lacking volunteers

Minneapolis has only 40 percent of the MPR support it had 10 years ago.

by Kevin Behr

If students have an interest in helping out the community and watching sporting events for free, the Minneapolis Police Reserve might be a potential volunteer opportunity to pursue.

The MPR is an all-volunteer force whose primary duties include traffic and crowd control for large events in Minneapolis, such as Gopher hockey and basketball games, or parades.

Perks of the job include watching the events for free and gaining law enforcement experience, said Cpl. Ryan Dailey, who has been a reserve officer for two years.

Even so, the 55-year-old unit of the Minneapolis Police Department is in need of new recruits.

Deputy Chief John Poucher, a reserve volunteer for 30 years, said the number of officers today is well below what the force used to be.

About 10 years ago, the reserve had about 100 officers, but currently only about 40 volunteer their time for the city.

Poucher blamed declining attitudes toward unpaid volunteer work and students who only join for a short time during school for the low number of officers.

“The turnover is pretty big,” he said.

Because of the shortage of reserve officers, one of the main missions of the organization for the past five years has been to find new recruits, Poucher said. The officers primarily post fliers in shop windows and set up information tables in malls to find volunteers, he said.

The MPR hasn’t advertised on campus, but the method isn’t ruled out, Poucher said.

Valuable assistance

When Minneapolis police don’t have enough officers to respond to calls, patrol the streets and monitor large events, the reserves fill in.

Most often, reserve officers direct traffic and control crowds at sporting events such as Vikings football games and University events, including homecoming and athletics.

Scott Ellison, the University’s associate athletics director, said the reserves offer a “much needed service” and that traffic going in – and coming out of – parking lots would be much worse without them.

“It’s tough getting off campus anyway,” he said. “The reserves help speed up that process.”

Steve Johnson, the University police deputy chief, said the reserves help each year at the homecoming parade.

“They provide very vital and important traffic services for us,” he said.

Besides directing traffic, the reserves also help the city in case of tornadoes or major power outages, Poucher said. Large celebrations like the Minneapolis Aquatennial and Fourth of July festivities also require the help of the reserves, he said.

How to be a reserve

To be a reserve officer, applicants must fill out forms, be 21 years old, have a clean criminal background and preferably live near Minneapolis.

“You don’t have to have an interest in law enforcement either,” Dailey said. “You just have to want to help the community.”

But he also called the reserves a good step into law enforcement, giving volunteers real-world experience that could lead to a full-time career.

Dailey said he knows of a few University student reserves who became full-time officers. He said he plans to take some time off before graduate school but did not rule out a career in law enforcement.

Once accepted into the reserve, officers go through extensive training on officer safety, first aid and CPR, Dailey said.

The volunteers are not official officers and don’t carry guns or Tasers, but they do receive Mace, handcuffs and radios for protection.