(Posted Jan. 2, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
When Bryan Turner was a boy, he wrote a letter to himself about what he wanted to be. At the time, he set his sights on becoming a Columbus firefighter.
Then in 2001, while working as a deejay at a Columbus radio station, Turner went on a ride-along with his roommate, a police officer. They went on 27 calls in that one shift, and Turner was hooked. That night, his dream of becoming a firefighter shifted to police work.
“It was the best night of my life,” said Turner, now 37. “A light bulb went off. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’ The adrenaline…the idea of doing something where you can help people instantly… seeing people at their worst and their best.”
Over the last several years, Turner has taken steps to realize that dream, all while running a deli and a deejay business. Following weight loss surgery, he has gone from a size 3X to a size large and is running and working out. And in 2013, a few months after he moved to West Jefferson, he joined the West Jefferson Police Auxiliary.
“The auxiliary is a great stepping stone for people who want to become full-time officers,” Turner said. “You’re in uniform and responding to calls It gives you an overall picture that goes beyond just a ride-along.”
Turner is one of a half-dozen citizens who volunteer their time as auxiliary officers for the West Jefferson Police Department. Some, like Turner, aspire to pursue law enforcement as a career. Others, like Dennis Todd, owner of a painting business in West Jefferson, serve purely for the chance to give back to the community.
“I love this job. I started at 52 years old. I love it because I get to help people,” said Todd, now 67. “I would do it 40 hours a week if I could get out of the office.”
Since joining the auxiliary, Todd has moved up the ladder to become the department’s highest ranking auxiliary officer at lieutenant. He answers to the lead officer, Sgt. Rob Campbell, and West Jefferson Police Chief Christopher Floyd.
Todd said he would love to see more citizens volunteer as auxiliary officers. At this time, the department has room for four to six more volunteers.
Auxiliary officers assist commissioned officers with a wide range of duties, including controlling traffic, locating lost children, and providing direction at special events like the Ox Roast and West Jefferson July Fourth Streetfest, as well as public relations at National Night Out and Drug Take-Back days.
They also go on calls, riding alongside commissioned officers in patrol cruisers. They can help with everything from controlling traffic at car accidents to being an extra set of eyes and ears at calls ranging from domestic violence to drug overdoses.
According to Todd, auxiliary officers also can provide a calming presence to children who often are pushed to the side during a police call. It’s a chance to not only help but also make a positive impression of law enforcement, he said.
“Through the auxiliary, you have a chance to reach out and touch people in a positive way, even in bad situations. We can help to calm, console, diffuse. And we can help to protect the officers.”
Auxiliary officers wear a special uniform, which they must purchase themselves. They are unarmed but are equipped with radios for immediate contact with commissioned officers. They are not compensated.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the auxiliary must be at least 18 years old, submit to a background check, and meet with police department staff to express why they want to be part of the auxiliary. Auxiliary officers are required to volunteer at least 16 hours per month.
“We need people with pleasant dispositions that want to help people,” said Chief Floyd.
For more information, call or stop by the West Jefferson Police Department, 28 E. Main St., (614) 879-7672.