MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At a time when many police departments are having a hard time finding new officers, Eden Prairie is being recognized for their volunteer program. Right now the police force has about 20 men and women who volunteer to be reserve officers.

The Reserves are civilians who assist sworn officers. They wear a uniform but are unarmed. WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle and photographer Grant Verdon went for a ride-along to see firsthand what they do.

Eden Prairie Reserve Officers Boyd Hesdorffer and Andrew Rockafellow are paired up on this shift.

“Each shift brings something new and you never know what you’re going to get,” Hesdorffer said.

The Reserves are made up of men and women with day jobs, often no background in law enforcement, who want to serve their community.

“I really wanted to help people. It was a great thing. For me it’s very different from what I normally do,” Rockafellow said.

They are teachers, CEOs, folks in business, marketing and real estate.

“There’s a lot of different ways to help people out. It’s not right for everybody, but it’s perfect for some, and for me it’s ideal,” Hesdorffer said.

Reserves go through an initial training, followed by monthly training, so they’re prepared when out covering a shift. Designed to complement the work of sworn officers.

“I help them in any way I can. Mostly it’s eyes and ears, very rarely hands. If they have someone pulled over we might stop and wait for the tow truck to come by,” Rockafellow said.

They can be called to help someone locked out of their car, a bat in a house, barking dog complaints, or this night a fireworks complaint. They later assisted with a car that police pulled over on the interstate. They also patrol parks, and staff city events.

“When the reserves are on duty, we allow the sworn officers to do more pressing things and let us take care of the smaller community service related calls,” Hesdorffer said.

You can identify them by their powder blue uniforms. Sworn officers wear navy blue. Sgt. Cory Sinon oversees the unit.

“Huge asset for our department to have. Having the Reserves, it allows the officers to go to those emergency calls because the officer could get tied up on a less priority call. They put in the hours, they don’t get paid, they do it on their own time and it’s pretty tremendous,” Sgt. Sinon said.

The Reserves say they’re the ones that feel fortunate to have this opportunity.

“I suppose it makes me feel good about helping out the community,” Hesdorffer said.

“We really do get to do the positive side of policing. It’s the service part, the helping out part, and rarely the enforcement part,” Rockafellow said.

Reserves take shifts on Thursday and Friday nights, and over the weekend. The time they volunteer adds up to more than one full time employee.

Many other metro departments have reserve officers, like Minneapolis and St. Paul, Plymouth, Minnetonka, Edina, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Bloomington, St. Anthony and Brooklyn Park, to name a few.

Eden Prairie Reserves recently received the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Award for Leadership in Volunteer Police Service Programs.

Jennifer Mayerle