Lt. Mike Carpenter joined the Newton Police Department 10 years ago, but he doesn't earn any money for his service.
Carpenter was hired on as a full-time officer, but then received an offer to return to a job in machining — a field that paid more and was a better fit for his skills.
"I'm really good at working on machines. I really like it," Carpenter said.
When asked to stay on and not give up law enforcement completely, Carpenter decided to become a reserve officer for NPD, volunteering his time to patrol the city.
"When you're in uniform, you're a full-fledged cop," Carpenter said. "You get to ride around in your own car. You're given an incredible amount of trust and responsibility."
As a reserve officer, Carpenter is able to choose when he will assist the department — putting in at least 10 hours each month.
"I absolutely love it in that capacity," Carpenter said. "If I'm out here, it's because I want to be out here and agreed to come out."
Reserve officers can volunteer for a few hours at a time or agree to cover a 12-hour duty shift for a regular officer.
"The most I've ever done was 300 hours in a year,"Carpenter said. "That's really enjoyable because you feel like you're contributing so much and saving taxpayers overtime hours."
There are also times when reserves can volunteer at a moment's notice — like the night when Carpenter learned of a stabbing that happened a block away from his home.
"Anytime you learn of stuff happening, you call the sergeant and say 'how can I help?' " Carpenter said.
That night, Carpenter provided scene security for several hours.
"I usually like to get to the scene and do the boring stuff to let the guys who are much better trained than I am serve the community to a much fuller extent than I can," Carpenter said.
Candidates must pass the same testing regular police officers undergo to become a reserve officer, from physical agility to a polygraph.
"We will not settle for a reserve," Carpenter said. "If you couldn't make it to be hired as a full-time officer, you will not be hired for a reserve position. There are incredibly high standards and it makes it extremely difficult to find somebody to do that for nothing."
While Carpenter admitted it is difficult to remember all the details of law enforcement without the benefit of daily repetition, he is supported by the full-time officers.
"There is so much in this job, from report writing to laws," Carpenter said. "It is mind-boggling."
Carpenter went through training to learn to use such tools as firearms, a baton, a Taser and the Breathalyzer.
"I have a lot of good experiences that I never would have had without being in law enforcement," Carpenter said.
Being a reserve officer has also given him an appreciation for situational awareness.
"That keeps my family, friends and coworkers safe," Carpenter said. "I'm constantly the guy who is scanning the room, looking for threats, sizing people up and trying to keep in the back of my head what my game plan is if something goes sideways."
Carpenter has learned how to diffuse volatile and emotional situations — whether on the street or in his own family.
One of the best things Carpenter has experienced as a reserve officer is having children come up and talk to him while he's in uniform. Conversely, he has also seen children who are afraid of him — and their own parents — when responding to a domestic violence call.
"That's not exactly what I thought of when you think of being cop — trying to go hug and comfort children," Carpenter said.
It can also be hard to talk with victims of a moral wrong that the law doesn't cover when a person makes decisions that affect others negatively.
"You deal with a lot of emotions that you're not allowed to let out," Carpenter said. "It's not my job to judge that person, talk down to them or condemn them. I'm just here to enforce the law."
As a reserve officer, Carpenter often sees children from impoverished homes with poor living conditions.
"Seeing what alcohol and drugs can do to families is heart-wrenching," Carpenter said. "It definitely gives you a profound insight into society."
The child of an alcoholic father, Carpenter strives to deal with any intoxicated individual like they were family.
"I always try to remember that that person is somebody's mom, dad, brother or sister," Carpenter said. "They might be at a low spot in their life. It might be a one-time thing that night or it might be the worst they've ever been. People still love them, people still care about them and they're still capable of amazingly good things."
For Carpenter, being a reserve officer gives him the opportunity to serve, save and protect people.
"I have a deep desire to help and serve my community, to keep people safe," Carpenter said. "It's a very profound opportunity."
Carpenter is well aware of the risk he takes just by putting on a police uniform, and he realizes being a reserve officer and giving up time with his wife and two sons would not be possible without their support.
"When I'm rolling down the streets on patrol and people see me, I wish they would see my wife and boys in that car with me, because they're sacrificing and I'm sacrificing," Carpenter said. "We all do it as a team together."
It is that commitment that makes expressions of support from the community deeply meaningful for Carpenter.
"When (people) show their gratitude and thanks, it goes a long ways," Carpenter said. "It really sinks in."
NPD's reserve officer program is funded through fundraisers and fees paid for providing security at events like football games, basketball games, parades or the county fair. Currently, four reserve officers are volunteering with the department.
"I would love to build this program up to have 10 reserve officers," Carpenter said. "We'd like to get those people trained up and serving their community, getting the same satisfaction out of the job that I get."