Working as a reserve constable with the Victoria Police Department, Mark Blackman attended the home of a woman who’d been the victim of a break-and-enter in March.
She was nine months pregnant and very emotional, he recalled, given that a number of personal items had been swiped from her home, including her laptop computer.
“It was difficult to understand what she was saying from all the tears. Her emotions were very much on the surface,” said Blackman, who attended the scene after the first officers responded.
Blackman spent some time with the woman, looking at the way the culprit entered the home, then came up with a plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The experience was a fist-pumping moment for the 36-year-old tech sector salesman, who’s had his sites set on a career in law enforcement prior to moving to Victoria from the UK in 2006.
“It (helping someone) gives you an amazing feel good factor,” he said. “Nothing could ever prepare you for the way that makes you feel.”
Blackman has had many gratifying moments helping citizens of his community since becoming one of the 60 reserve constables currently with Victoria police.
The reserve constables are all volunteers, receiving first hand experience working with police and delivering a number of crime prevention programs to citizens and businesses.
Armed with a baton, OC spray and handcuffs, the reserve constables work in pairs, providing another set of eyes and ears for officers on city streets. They also help with traffic duties and crowd control at major events, and assist officers with their duties during ride alongs.
Reserve constable Alex Rutherford has always had an interest in a policing career as a way to give back to his community and make a positive impact. Like Blackman, the 25-year-old has been a reserve constable for a year and has enjoyed every moment of it thus far, especially when it comes to attending community events.
“It’s feeling that sense of community and feeling like we are really helping and people appreciate what we do,” said Alex, who works security at a local hospital. “There’s a lot of police work that goes unnoticed and it’s nice to get a high five from someone when you’re standing out in the rain doing traffic control. That type of thing does it for me.”
In order to become a reserve constable, candidates are required to pass a physical test, lifestyle evaluation and language proficiency index exam. Then it’s onto basic training, which takes about four months with classes held one to two evenings a week and one day during the weekend.
During training, candidates study a number of topics, such as legal issues, crime prevention, traffic, communication tactics and self-defense. Practical and written exams are held for self defence and communications, and two provincial and written exams are given on classroom studies. Those that make the cut are expected to volunteer a minimum of 10 hours a month.
According to Const. Matt Rutherford, most reserve constables are interested in a policing career, but some just want to give back to their community.
Matt participated in the reserve program for three-and-a-half years and has now been an officer for four-and-a-half. The reserve program was a stepping stone for his policing career.
“I loved the training and I’m still friends with people in my reserve class,” said Matt, adding the reserve constables are a valuable part of the police department.
The department is currently in the midst of another training class for reserve constables. Once that class wraps up at the beginning of June, the department will have 75 volunteers in the program.