When Andy Harder finishes his shift, he often trades his firefighter's outfit to don a police uniform.

Harder, who works for Newton Fire/EMS, has volunteered for nearly three years as a reserve officer for the Newton Police Department.

"If there's been a big incident that's happened in Harvey County I've been there in one form or another," Harder said.

Harder describes firefighting as his dream job, but he believed there was still more he could do for the community.

"I don't know how to explain it; it's just a drive to help people, a drive for public service. I love public service," Harder said.

Harder went through the NPD's Citizens Academy, passed a polygraph and written and physical tests to join the ranks of reserve officers — individuals who volunteer to serve in law enforcement.

"We train on everything the full-time people train on, from tasers and shooting to how to write a ticket. We're responsible for everything, just as they are," Harder said. "...We do everything they do — go to court, write cases, all of that — but we're just not paid for it."

"Somebody that's willing to give up time with their family to go out and serve their community, that's pretty rare," said NPD Reserve Lt. Mike Carpenter. "...I think he's made a tremendous impact for the better. He makes our unit better."

Learning how police officers operate gave Harder a new perspective on emergency calls he works as a firefighter.

"There are parts of their job that we don't see them doing and parts of our job that they don't see and so it's kind of a nice bridge," Harder said.

The good working relationship between law enforcement and the fire department is unique and benefits those who require their assistance, Harder

"That doesn't exist in every city," Harder said. "...It's a better outcome for all of the citizens in Newton that we work so well together."

Many of Harder's assignments as a reserve officer include providing security at football and basketball games, as well as large events like the county fair.

"If they need people to secure a scene or direct traffic they can call and we'll come help," Harder said.

His schedule at the fire department — working 24 hours on followed by 48 hours off — allows Harder to cover weekday patrol shifts, being another officer watching the streets of Newton for the police department during the day.

Just like other officers, Harder cannot predict what kind of situations he will be called upon to aid in.

"(People) call you at the worst possible time — when they don't know what else to do, who else to turn to, and you don't have the choice to walk away. You have to find a solution," Harder said. "There are some great people working at both departments. We put our heads together and we find a solution. ...There's stuff you don't want to have to see or deal with, there's definitely stuff like that, but that one good outcome, that makes it all worth it."

Harder's training as an EMT gives him the ability to render medical aid as a reserve officer who may arrive on a scene before an ambulance does.

"The fact that he's a firefighter and an EMT, it contributes to the department's ability to respond," Carpenter said. "...If me or my family was out in an accident somewhere, it'd be great to have Andy be the first one there."

Harder spent nearly 300 hours last year volunteering for NPD, Carpenter said, and spent time training the other reserves officers on CPR and other life-saving measures.

"That speaks volumes to his dedication to the program and trying to immerse himself in law enforcement and become a safer officer," Carpenter said.

Carpenter noted Harder has been involved in everything from foot pursuits to drug cases.

"He's out there making it happen and finding crime and being proactive," Carpenter said.

Several people who Harder has arrested have thanked him for his respectful manner during their interaction.

"The professionalism and compassion that he has from being a firefighter suits him very well on the street," Carpenter said.

"Everybody's made a mistake, but you can learn from it. Hopefully, most of them do and do something better," Harder said.

Working as a reserve officer has shown Harder many of the struggles people face in their lives.

"It definitely makes you look at the world a different way. There's a lot of bad out there that people just don't see," Harder said.

Being present at school events or running calls involving children is especially meaningful to Harder, who is a father of four.

"Impacting the youth, to me, is huge," Harder said. "...Some kids now, it's just amazing what they go through, it really is. It hurts your heart. There's not much you can do but try and do what's best."

Harder credits the full-time NPD officers and his family for their support of his work as a reserve officer.

"The kids have a lot of respect for it and my wife understands that I want to help people. I want to see a better community," Harder said. "...Newton's a great place to be. If we could just come together and squash some of the problems and get along, I think we could make things even better."