This past January, 15 people from around the Valley and as far away as Yakima and the Tri-Cities started making bi-weekly trips to Sunnyside to learn the ins and outs of law enforcement from Sunnyside and Grandview police officers, Washington State Patrol troopers and a prosecuting attorney.
In the past those who wanted to be reserve officers have had to travel to Yakima or the Tri-Cities to attend six months of classes required to be a reserve officer.
With budget crunches in small communities across the state, police departments are depending on reserves to help fill gaps and provide extra police coverage in town.
In Sunnyside, the reserves have always played a key role in helping with special projects or events the police department has undertaken, whether or not the budget was tight, said Captain Phil Schenck of the Sunnyside Police Department. They were crucial in curbing the downtown gang problem and also helped cut down on cruising in the downtown, he said.
The Sunnyside Police Department requires active reserves to volunteer at least 16 hours a month.
At the beginning of the year no reserve academies were planned, so the Sunnyside Police Department stepped forward to return the favor and host the classes, said Schenck.
"We have a very good core of instructors right now," said Schenck. "We have spent a lot of time and investment in our officers and we thought it would be a good opportunity to teach."
Class organizer Sgt. Jeff Cunningham of the Sunnyside Police Department added, "We've had our own reserves who have needed to go to academy."
The class started with 15 members, but one of the students left when she was hired by the Wapato Police Department as a paid officer, said Cunningham, adding that she will now be attending the state academy in Burien.
Beside reserves from Sunnyside and Grandview, reservists are training to work with the sheriff's office, city police departments throughout the Valley, Yakama Tribal Gaming Commission and the Victim's Witness Unit for the Yakima prosecutor's office, said Cunningham.
Reserve trainees are learning defensive tactics, ethics, criminal and courtroom procedures, communication skills, criminal law, crisis intervention, patrol procedures, traffic laws, use of force, firearms, CPR and first aid, emergency vehicle operations, criminal investigation and pepper spray, according to Cunningham.
The reserves test and will have to perform in mock scenes before the class is completed. The final test is the state exam, which is for state certification.
"When they graduate they will be a state certified officer for their department," said Cunningham. "When they're on duty they're like any other officer. They have the power and authority to give tickets and put people in jail.
"A lot of these guys are taking the academy with the future hope of becoming an officer."
The class meets every Wednesday and Saturday, but there have also been several Sunday classes held to provide the reserves with additional practice.
The class will be completed by the end of May.