Genoa police chief Ty Lynch was clear in his appreciation for the volunteers gathered at his department prior to the Genoa Days parade on June 16.
“Genoa Days is a success every year because of volunteers like you,” he told a group of about 10 sheriff and police department auxiliary members. “We would not be able to have the parade without your help.”
As 200,000 people arrive at the Sandwich Fair this week, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Auxiliary are "vitally important" in maintaining traffic control and public safety.
“We just don’t have the manpower for all those access points,” he said. “They also assist in parking lots with handicapped people, with people who are sick or injured and with reports of lost children."
He estimated the department receives 75 to 100 reports of lost children at the fair each year.
In 2011, auxiliary members contributed 1,494 man hours to assisting the sheriff’s office and other local police agencies. Of those hours, 697 were spent at the Sandwich Fair. The remaining hours were spent on emergency response calls, weather call outs and events such as bike races, parades and charity runs.
“We have 20 or more events a year, plus call outs. We are available 24/7,” auxiliary member Duane Rapp said.
The auxiliary is comprised of 25 volunteers who often sacrifice their nights, weekends and holidays to keep DeKalb County residents safe. Volunteers must complete the 10-week Sheriff’s Citizens Police Academy before applying for a spot on the auxiliary. Auxiliary candidates undergo a thorough background investigation and complete additional training.
Jim Carwile of Cortland recently completed his training after a year of hands-on and classroom experience.
“I got my star finally,” Carwile said. “But we still have to go over arresting procedures.”
Auxiliary members do not have the power of arrest, but they are able to help sworn law enforcement officers detain and subdue suspects. They are also trained in CPR and first aid, proper use of radio communications, traffic control and procedures in the county jail.
Craig Schroeder, the training officer for the auxiliary, has been with the group for nearly a decade. The call out that is the highlight of his career came in September 2004.
“The one that I’m really proud of is when Dick Cheney came to NIU a few years ago. We were on the overpasses over (Interstate) 88,” Schroeder said. His duty was to prevent traffic from going over the overpass when the vice president's motorcade was in the vicinity, but he did not know that when he first got the call.
“The called us that day and said they had a special detail for us and they wouldn’t tell us what it was until we got there,” he said.
Rarely are the call outs as glamorous as protecting the vice president. Some details involve bad weather or tragedy and can last for days at a time. When Northern Illinois University student Antinette Keller disappeared in October 2010, auxiliary members manned a mobile command post around the clock to assist police agencies investigating her disappearance and death.
“There are a lot of times we don’t see our families, like with the Keller case,” said Tim Duda, assistant director of the auxiliary.
The mobile command center, which is owned by the auxiliary, is used by the sheriff’s office for large cases or in rural areas. The auxiliary also has four-wheel drive off-road vehicles, an enclosed pull trailer and tents. The equipment is paid for with grants and donations from the community.
Some auxiliary members endure harsh weather and unpredictable schedules in hopes of bettering their chances for a job in law enforcement. Five current DeKalb County sheriff’s deputies served in the auxiliary.
However, for most members, serving on the auxiliary offers a sense of community service and pride.
“For me, it’s very important,” Carwile said. “I feel proud to be part of the auxiliary. I know that when I put on my uniform I am a representative of the DeKalb County sheriff’s department, and I am very proud of that.”