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Cottage Grove Police Reserve member Brittany Cekalla (left) directs traffic at 80th Street and East Point Douglas Road with the help of St. Paul Reserve Patrol Commander David Staehlin. (Bulletin photo by Patricia Drey Busse)

Police reserves take to the streets

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Cottage Grove Police Department reserve officers got a chance to practice directing traffic at three of the city's busiest intersections Saturday.

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"There's a lot more to directing traffic than you think," said Cottage Grove police officer and reserves liaison Matthew Foucault. Cottage Grove's volunteer reserve officers and community service officers got a three-hour training session from a veteran of the St. Paul Police Department followed by the practical trial where St. Paul officers paired up with reservists to train them.

Cottage Grove's reserve officers will use their training when they direct traffic at emergency sites and during parades.

Twelve-year reserve officer David Larson said helping out at Strawberry Fest -- where the reserves also provide site security -- is his favorite part of the job.

"It's rewarding. It's fun to help out at the events," he said. "A lot of them wouldn't occur if we didn't have the reserves to help out."

Reservists are also expected to do a six-hour patrol shift on a Friday or Saturday night once per month. They go out in police cars in pairs, checking the parks for people who are out there after hours or doing business checks, he said.

"They're just another presence on the streets on the weekends especially," he said. They also assist during traffic stops, and transport people to the jail in Stillwater to allow the full-time officers to stay in Cottage Grove.

The city has 15 reservists that volunteer about 2,000 hours per year, which is almost the equivalent to the time worked by one full-time officer, Foucault said. 

Applications to become a reserve officer are accepted on an ongoing basis, and in August and September, police start doing interviews of the applicants for the following year. Those selected start in October and have a few months to "get their feet wet" and make sure the program is right for them before going through training in January, Foucault said.

To be accepted into the program, applicants must undergo a background check and drug test, he said. Reserve members don't carry handguns, but they do carry mace and Tasers, and so they're trained to follow the department's policies on when use of force is appropriate.

In the past volunteers who had been in the reserves for more than a year would train the new members, but this year the department started an eight-week academy with four-hour classes each Wednesday.

The five new members who will graduate from this year's reserve officer academy will be honored at the March 3 Cottage Grove City Council Meeting.

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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