LONOKE, Ark. (KTHV) - Local law enforcement agencies often have to stretch every dollar to get the resources and equipment they need, but one Central Arkansas sheriff's department found some extra money to help keep its deputies safe.
When John Staley ran for the office of Lonoke County Sheriff last year, one of his key issues was revamping and improving the county's reserve officer program. Thanks to some state funds, he's already starting to deliver on that campaign promise.
"I'm telling you I'm so excited it's unreal," said Staley. "The volunteers, these men and women are business owners, they're retired law enforcement, retired military, they're coming out to volunteer their time, they go through extensive backgrounds and extensive training and they're certified to make arrests, they're just an extension of our full-time guys, and they're out here without bullet-proof vests, extra radios, so we can communicate. We'd have to borrow radios and it was just crazy."
"They just didn't have the equipment," added Staley, talking about his volunteer deputies. "They were buying their own uniforms, unless they bought it themselves, they didn't have it... It's emotional because these guys, these men and women, they put their life on the line for free, it takes them away from their families and they're doing it for the citizens of Lonoke County and we couldn't do it without them."
Jerry Shepard spoke with state lawmakers and helped secure the money for the department. He also serves as one of Lonoke County's volunteer officers.
"If you don't have a radio, you're on your own, and most of these guys don't have radios," said Shepard. "If this money didn't come through, I was going to have to go out without the proper equipment or to try to find $5,000-$6,000 of my own money to do that... Bullet-proof vests, radios, tasers are all very expensive."
Lonoke County reserve officers helped out when high-voltage power lines were sabotaged in Cabot last month, but they also go on patrol throughout the county just like regular-duty officers.
"If you've ever been in a vehicle at 1 a.m. with no backup in the middle of the night with a number of individuals who really don't want to do what you're asking them to do, that's a pretty scary time," added Shepard. "When you think these guys are out there without the proper equipment, that gets pretty serious."
"I'm just proud to say we're on the right track in getting this needed equipment," said Staley. "We don't offer them pay, so I feel that we've got to give them protection that, I wouldn't leave home without it so I don't expect them to."
Staley didn't want to get into exact figures because he still isn't sure how much money his department will get. The funds still need to be cleared and appropriated by the county quorum court, but when all is said and done he hopes to bring in several tens of thousands of badly-needed dollars.