Experience Walks the Beat Downtown

By: James Steiner
By: James Steiner

More than 120 years of law enforcement experience is now walking the streets of downtown Reno.

Five new once-retired officers have joined the force and they were sworn in Monday. The new reserve officers will be part of the downtown patrol program and you can see them walking the beat right now. They'll mostly be working afternoon and nights to handle the many quality of life issues facing the downtown core.

The retired reserve officers are no different than a regular member of the force. They carry a gun and make arrests, but more so as they have been hired to beef up police presence in downtown Reno.

"There are five of 15-25 reserve officers we plan on hiring on an hourly basis," said Chief Jerry Hoover.

The city doesn't have to pay them benefits and they only work a maximum of 17 hours a week. The grant that's paying their salaries could only pay for one new full-time police officer a year. With the new patrol program, city officials can hire retired peace officers with more than 25 years of experience.

Says Mayor Bob Cashel, "They are the front line in greeting people that come here - they are our goodwill ambassadors."

The retired peace officers will walk the downtown corridor, along the Truckee River. Already, city crews have been cleaning up that area with better lighting, new signage, and planting flowers. It's part of the Downtown Task Force's efforts to improve public safety to residents and visitors.

"I live here. I want downtown improved and it seems to be working," said Mark Caldwell, one of the newly hired retired officers.

Along with the police department's Senior Auxiliary Volunteer Effort, or S.A.V.E, program, and the bike patrols, the city has seen a decrease in begging and panhandling downtown. And more people are getting out and enjoying the parks and the outdoors.

Reno's mayor says one of the reasons so many people live here is the quality of life - a few of the retired peace officers came back to Northern Nevada after stints in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

However, not everyone is happy about this new arrangement. The Reno Police Protection Association is filing a grievance against the city, saying it's members' hours are being taken away because of the reserve officers.

Deputy Chief Jim Weston says there's no truth in that whatsoever, because the police department wouldn't be able to use the grant money to pay for overtime.


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