Mark Young was working security for a special event at Lakeside Park last summer when he spotted an overturned boat under the big orange bridge, with a pair of bobbing heads beside it in the water.
The long-time reserve corporal for the Nelson Police Department, who also works as a bylaw officer, was the first person to respond that day. He sprinted down the shoreline, paddled out to retrieve the panicked pair, and then hauled them back to shore — all before the cops could arrive.
That’s just the kind of guy he is.
“If anyone’s in need, I’m going to help — doesn’t matter what it’s going to be. In this situation it was one of those life or death kind of things, and both the regular on-duty officers were tied up at a domestic,” Young told the Star.
“For me it could be as simple as finding a child, or a lost item, I just want to help.”
Young is one of the six reserves currently on the force, which means he volunteers his time at special events and parades, mans roadblocks, responds to 9-1-1 calls and assists with duties in the station. Many of the reserves have been there for decades, giving them an intimate knowledge of the community, and according to Const. Alain Therrien, their contribution is invaluable — that’s why they’re on a recruitment drive to find more.
“My take is that anyone who does any kind of volunteering is already awesome, and I have all sorts of respect for what they do. Now I may be biased, but I think this is basically the ultimate volunteer opportunity,” he said.
Many of the reserves have been around longer than he’s been on the job, and they consider it a long-term commitment, typically staying for a minimum of between five to 10 years. Some of them are working their way towards a full-time position on the force, while others are just looking to help out.
For Andrew McPhee, the reserve program led to him ultimately being hired on as a special constable for the force. That was 23 years ago, and he’s moved up from there. Meanwhile his wife Nancy has signed on as well, picking up transcription duties and working as relief dispatch. Both of them are passionate about the gig, and about giving back to the community.
Therrien doesn’t know what the force would do without them.
“In some respects we’re stretched a little thin, so having the assistance of the reserve constables is invaluable.”
The program is monitored and mandated by the province, with Police Services and the Justice Institute involved in overseeing it. To become a reserve, there are certain minimum training requirements and applicants must go through a thorough screening. Once they make it on the force, they work under the supervision of a certified constable such as Therrien.
According to him, they don’t need to have a background in policing or law enforcement to get involved, or to have a meaningful impact.
“You could be working for the city, you could be a mechanic or a social worker, all walks of life, so this is also a good fit for people who are civic-minded.”
The force has unveiled their new website, nelsonpolice.ca, and has all the information on how to apply listed there. Therrien hopes lots of applicants will come out of the woodwork.
“I know every time I go out with reserve constables, we have fun. It’s definitely challenging, it’s not for everyone because you’re going to see a dark side to people in need. You’re going to see things 99 per cent of the public never see,” he said.
“It can seem intimidating when you look at the requirements, because we do need to make sure we do extensive screening so we get the right people, but we encourage anyone who’s even thinking about applying to call us, reach out, and see if maybe there’s a place for you in the program.”