They carry guns, make arrests, and wear shiny, star-shaped badges.
But these Los Angeles County Sheriff’s reserve deputies are paid virtually nothing, accepting a paycheck of just a dollar a year.
Now some of the volunteers will be part of a new task force of reserve impact teams to bring down crime in the eastern part of the county served by the Industry Station, Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced Friday.
The crew of up to 15 part-time officers will focus on burglaries, robberies and vehicle theft, and will assist other deputies with traffic violations, serving warrants and writing reports, McDonnell said. The boost will address a slight rise in crime in the area, he said.
Members of the group will serve at least 20 hours a month and are mainly expected to provide visibility, deterring crime by driving a patrol car and being seen.
“The reserve impact team is one of several strategies our East Patrol division is deploying for exactly that: impact,” McDonnell said.
On its first mission last month, a reserve impact team patrolled residential areas to deter burglary near the Temple Station, which serves the San Gabriel Valley. During that time, the station did not report any burglaries, robberies, assaults or vehicle thefts, McDonnell said.
The Sheriff’s Department has long kept a cadre of volunteer reserve deputies, many of whom work full time in unrelated fields.
Many of the 600 reserve deputies in the department have attended patrol school and do the same police work as regular officers, including writing reports and testifying in court.
Don Elshire, a trauma surgeon and member of the task force, said he enjoys being a reserve deputy so that he can give “compassionate service to our fellow man.”
Another reserve, Debbie Iketani, is on call 24/7 as part of the all-volunteer San Dimas Mountain Rescue team, and serves as a DUI instructor and drug recognition expert in addition to her day job.
“My passion is to take impaired drivers off the road,” said Iketani, a real estate agent, who came under fire and narrowly escaped injury last year while on reserve duty.
Their fellow reserve deputies include a construction company owner, a chemical engineer, a governmental affairs director and the proprietor of a gas station.
The department has struggled to add deputies to its force of 9,400, but officials say the volunteer impact team has nothing to do with the chronic staff shortage.
The organization has 236 open deputy positions, though the actual number of vacancies is 600, with some of the spots left unfilled to meet savings targets and the rest expected to be filled by people now in the academy, said department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.
“It’s a challenge nationally for recruitment, but we are actively recruiting ... both reserves and regular sworn deputy sheriffs,” said Chief Eric Parra, who heads the East Patrol Division.
“We’re very happy to have the reserves that have this type of background out there serving the community,” he said.