It's a reserve you don't hear much about, but if you ask the Monroe County sheriff about it, he says the sheriff's reserve is the backbone to the whole operation.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Reserve has been around for more than four decades. It's a group of specially trained individuals who help out the sheriff's department. Sometimes its traffic control and other times it's to guard a crime scene, but no matter the job, how big or small, Monroe County Sheriff Pete Quirin knows he can count on the reserve to be there when he calls.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Reserve, as we know it today, started out as the Auxiliary Police during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
"It was the federal government that actually organized the program for counties across the nation,” said Gordon Stellter, the manager of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Reserve.
Now more than four decades later, the Sheriff's Reserve in Monroe County continues to thrive.
"They look at me 'Sheriff's Reserve, what's that?' and I tell them what they do and 'Man, how do you keep that going?' said Quirin.
Luckily, Quirin has never had to imagine his job without them.
"No matter how cold it is, or how hot it is, or how lonely it is these guys will show up,” said Quirin.
It's a group of about 60 people that range in age from 18 to 85.
"I think we started in 1968, about 45 years,” said Elroy Olson, a reserve officer with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Reserve.
Some of them have served in the reserve for multiple decades and many of them got started with little to no background in law enforcement.
"I went to school and became a printer. I came from La Crosse to Tomah to work in a print shop,” said Fritz, a reserve officer with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Reserve.
"Worked 33 years at the VA hospital in Tomah,” said Olson.
"I was in the civil defense program, I was the director for the county here,” said Stellter.
Most of the time, the call to duty is at a moment’s notice.
"We've had some scenes, a fire scene a few years back, we were there for two weeks, 24 hours a day,” said Stellter.
Sometimes it requires guarding crime scenes and evidence, including criminals.
"It was a little on the hairy side, I kept thinking all day long, please don't expire on my watch, because wherever he goes, I have to go,” said Fritz.
“We had to sit there and watch, it was kind of a spooky place,” said Olson.
And at times, it can be a little funny too.
“I sat down in the car, it was night and a cat jumped from the building and landed on my car. Ain't all fun, kind of scary once in a while,” said Olson.
But no matter how they started, all three of them say the important thing is they all ended up there and they've enjoyed every minute of it.
"I don't know how long I am going to be in the reserve. I've worn the brown uniform so long it's just become part of me, it's like a suit,” said Fritz.
New reserve officers are trained every two years. However, they have started a cadet program, where people can learn about the program to make sure they are interested in joining before going through all the training.
While Quirin is retiring at the end of his term, the reserves don't plan on going anywhere and both candidates for sheriff will be able to continue to rely on the group.