The Tillman County Sheriff Department graduated 17 newly certified reserve officers. Sheriff Bobby Whittington stated “These candidates started training back in November. We have been at it every Tuesday and Thursday evening as well as Saturdays and some Sundays to complete this training program.” Sheriff Whittington explained it is expensive and time consuming for the department to provide the rigorous training required for reserve officer certification. There is a huge commitment on the part of the participants to complete this training and they do not get paid for their service. Tillman County Undersheriff Bryan Smith explained “We can only afford to present this training every few years due to the expense and the time commitment on the part of our staff.” Smith stated of the candidates for certification “It shows strong commitment on their part, wanting to serve their community, not even in a paid position.”
Undersheriff Smith coordinates the training program under the direction of Sheriff Whittington. Smith holds an Associates Degree in Corrections and Bachelor of Criminal Justice from Cameron University. Smith grew up in Tipton and his family is still in the area. Smith and Whittington both had high praise for Tillman County Assistant District Attorney Deanna Hansell. They both note it is difficult to find an attorney to donate over 80 hours in a four month period to teach the complicated section. Ms. Hansell reports she enjoys teaching the block and, though it does take time from her family, she would prefer to provide the training and know that it is being taught correctly. The district attorney’s office is responsible for filing charges against people who break the law. If the law enforcement officers do not perform their responsibilities correctly, it is not possible to hold criminals fully accountable.
The graduating class included reserve officers for the Greer and Cotton County Sheriff Departments as well as two reserve officers for the Frederick Police Department. Sheriff Whittington explained, “If a person is ready to go through the training and their county doesn’t have a class going on, they can attend our class.” Undersheriff Smith also explained the same is true for Tillman County residents who are welcome to attend another county’s training program. He also noted in these cases “The expense and time commitment for the candidate is even greater due to the commute.”
The graduating class included two female candidates. Stephanie Hayes is one of the women. She went through the training at the same time as her spouse, Levi Hayes (coincidentally the son and daughter-in-law of ADA Deanna Hansell).The Hayes met in California when they were both in the US Marine Corps. They have a young son and report the most difficult part of participating in the intensive training program was the evenings and weekends spent away from their son.
The other female is Kelsey Kerr, Deputy for the Cotton County Sheriff Department under the leadership of Sheriff Kent Simpson. Kelsey reported, “I wanted to do this because Cotton county is my home, I love the people, and the community.” Upon further questioning Kerr stated “It can be scarey but that is part of it and it is worth it to me to help my community.” Kelsey currently works for the Department of Human Services as a Child Welfare Aid.
Undersheriff Smith explained certified reserve officers are qualified to perform the same duties as full time paid officers. If an individual would like to become a reserve officer, contact the Tillman County Sheriff department to begin the rigorous application procedure. The process includes an in-depth OSBI background check, a physical assessment as well as psychological testing. The training and graduation ceremony were held at the Great Plains Technology Center in the Lloyd Benson Seminar Center. The room was overflowing with reserve officer graduates and family members from the very young to the very old. An atomsphere of pride in community and family hung heavy in the room. Handshakes and hugs conveying relief and accomplishment of a great endeavor were shared between graduates, instructors and family members.