Could a volunteer program help the shortage at TCSO?

As the staffing shortage in the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office continues to grow, the sheriff- elect is looking into ways other offices have created manpower solutions.

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 9:22 PM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 9:22 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- If he wants to keep up, Tippecanoe County Sheriff Elect Bob Goldsmith has to act fast.

"Our county is exploding in population and it doesn't look like it's going to slow down anytime soon," said Goldsmith. 

That's why he's already considering solutions for the department's staffing shortage. One might include bringing back the county's "Volunteer in Police Services" or VIPS program.

"I would say 99.9 percent sure I want to do it," said Goldsmith. 

But it's going to take time and research. Former Sheriff Tracy Brown is happy to help. He's the one who created the program, but over the years, it went away.

"Just an incredible program, if you can't tell, I'm very passionate about it because it worked," said Brown. 

VIPS consisted of about 12 community volunteers who either helped with office work or low-risk deputy activities such as directing traffic.

"It was not hard to recruit people at all," said Brown. "It saved hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Boone County's Deputy Reserve Program saves millions. It's different from VIPS because it actually trains people to do everything a merit deputy can do. The only difference is reserves work for free. That's how Major Brian Stevenson got started.

"What I got out of it, I can never explain," said Stevenson. "For me to give back to my community, that's what I needed."

Boone County Reserves volunteer 16 hours a month. It takes about three years of training to become one. Reserve Commander Robert Craig said the job is so rewarding. He was able to stop a teen from suicide as a reserve.

"And you know, those kinds of things you will remember," said Craig. "You will remember helping out a family."

Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen said their well-known Reserve Academy is open to any agency.

"I really think that if you do the program and you do it right, you'll really see some benefits in the long run," said Nielsen. 

Goldsmith said it's worth looking into. He's concerned about cost and liability right now but he loves the idea of a reserve program.

"They're volunteering their time because they care," said Goldsmith. "And that's the type of people we want here and the type of people we need."

Goldsmith encourages the community to start reaching out now if you would be interested in a VIPS or reserve program.

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