TIOGA, N.D. (AP) -- Faced with growing demands on its police force and no money to add officers, the city of Tioga turned to a solution not often tried in North Dakota.
About six months ago, four volunteers with the new Tioga Police Reserve Officer Association took to the streets to back up the city's five-officer police department.
"The last three months, it has made a huge impact," said Jeff Spivey, a reserve officer and police commissioner on the Tioga City Commission. Fights, car thefts and other incidents are down due to the presence of the additional officers, he said.
People feel safer, added Nathan Germundson, City Commission president.
"There's been a lot of positive feedback," he said.
Sustaining a program that demands a lot of its volunteers doesn't appear to be an issue. The program so far is getting plenty of interest from prospective reservists, Germundson said.
Tioga has limited the number of reservists to keep training manageable, but Spivey expects the association eventually to double to eight reservists. He also would like to see the regular force increased to six officers.
Candidates must be at least age 21 and hold a high school degree. They must pass a criminal background check, medical physical, drug test and be eligible to receive a concealed weapons permit. Candidates must pass interviews by the board and police chief.
"What we are looking for is the average, good-hearted citizen that wants to make a real difference," Spivey said.
Spivey recalled responding to a vehicle crash during his first week as a reservist. He and an officer with the police department restored a victim's breathing and stabilized him for medical personnel.
"That night when I went home, I felt good about myself," he said. "It was a good day. You made a small difference."
His son, Bobby Spivey, also has volunteered as a police reservist. His experience influenced him to leave his job as a mechanic for a career in law enforcement. He plans to join the Tioga department full time.
"I have seen a different side of everything," Spivey said. "What I like is to help people."
Jeff Spivey originally took the lead in investigating the potential for a reserve force in Tioga. He said he has lived in other large cities around the country that have had police reserves and figured it could work in rural North Dakota.
North Dakota's other reserve forces are the Bismarck Mounted Police and Cass County Sheriff Reserves.
Like a volunteer ambulance squad or fire department, police reserves rely on trained volunteers and the financial backing of the community. A minimum level of police qualification takes 65 hours of training. More than 120 hours are required to reach a level that enables reservists to work in teams of two, and additional training is needed to patrol solo.
Tioga's reservist candidates are able to get training locally through qualified trainers with the police force. Reservists have the same authority as regular officers but they cannot make off-duty arrests as regular officers can.
In Tioga, reservists have been invaluable in assisting with prisoner transports to the jail in Williston. Reservists also patrol on weekends and evenings. They have backed up officers on calls such as fights, where officer safety and quick de-escalation of a situation are important.
A five-member board governs Tioga's reserve association. The reserve force owns six, fully equipped police vehicles, jointly sharing their use with the regular force.
The majority of donations that fund the program have come from private sources. A local sales-tax fund also made a contribution, and the city picks up vehicle fuel and uniform costs.
Tioga still has a ways to go with its law enforcement capacity because the city continues to grow, but it is on the right track with the reserve association, Jeff Spivey said.
"Was it born out of desperation? Yes. Are we trying to do it right? Yes," he said. "I believe it would work anywhere if you monitor it well and if you do it right."