History of the LCSO Reserve Deputy Program
Once known as the "Sheriff's Posse"-- a somewhat murky distinction-- Lewis and Clark County Reserve Deputies are now some of the most highly-trained and respected volunteers in the field of Criminal Justice
From Posse to Professional
The program started in the fall of 1979 when Sheriff O'Reilly decided to upgrade the Sheriff's Posse. Originally, Reserve Deputies covered for full-time Deputies when they were sick, on vacation or needed additional help on shift. Reserves have always been called out during large-scale incidents such as demonstrations, labor unrest, wildfires, floods, incidents requiring SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), and Search and Rescue. LCSO Reserves regularly provide law enforcement for events such as rodeos and concerts, and fulfill contract duties for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to protect our campgrounds and wilderness. In some cases, without the Reserve force the Sheriff's Office would have been overwhelmed by the lack of manpower needed to respond to significant incidents. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff reserves have been called to duty as part of a strike team to assist other Sheriff Departments during natural disasters such as wildland fires.
In 1979, there were no portable radios available to the LCSO, and vehicle radios didn't work consistently across the Helena Valley. There were certainly no Mobile Data Terminals (computers in the car). Reserves were equipped with a sidearm, shotgun, flashlight and night stick. The agency now has radio coverage in nearly all parts of the county. A back-up radio systems makes it easy to switch between repeaters. Deputies are able to respond throughout the entire county, moving well beyond the confines of the Helena Valley.
Training for the Reserves has always been a two-year program. Historically, the Reserves received the same basic training -- as a minimum -- that regular officers received in the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. The training today is similar to when the program first started; however, Reserves now have a multitude of regular deputies available to provide training in specialized areas such as crisis intervention, evidence gathering, firearms, defense tactics, use of force, and SWAT. The Reserve force recently received standardized field sobriety training for the first time in Reserve history, adding 14 more deputies to the roads to arrest impaired drivers.