Archive for Thursday, September 8, 2005

Reserve officer marks 12 years on force

September 8, 2005

By day, Tom Mink helps keep Commerce Bank and its customers safe from fraud and theft.

At night - mostly weekends - he helps keep the streets of Lansing safe.

Mink, who is a fraud investigator with Commerce Bank, is one of nine people participating in the Lansing Police Department's reserve officer program.

"I'd been military police for 22 years, so I guess it's kind of in my blood, in my system," said Mink, who has been a reserve officer in Lansing since 1993.

As a reserve officer, Mink volunteers a minimum of 16 hours a month with the department. When he's on duty, he does the same tasks as regular officers: patrolling the streets, writing tickets, making sure everything seems right, even going to court to testify when called.

"I'm one of the ones - maybe because of my military background and everything else - I can actually go out and get a car, work on the weekends by myself," Mink said.

The reserves act as backups to regular officers, filling in on the schedule where needed, Chief Steve Wayman said. They also help out at special events, such as Lansing DAZE, the city's Fourth of July celebration and high school sporting events.

"You try to watch the schedule: Saturdays, Sunday, maybe a holiday if somebody's on vacation," Mink said. "You try to overlap so you're out (working) when they're kind of short."

He said he'd assisted on most every type of crime, including a murder and a credit union robbery. But when a major crime occurs, reserves usually take a back seat, securing the scene or working crowd control while the professionals take over.

"Mostly I'm the one who gets called out to sit, and that's understandable," Mink said. "You want the paid guys to do the legwork. But they need somebody to sit and secure the crime scene while they do the job. I have no problem with that; somebody has to do the job."

Wayman said Mink was fully qualified as an officer.

"He knows the workings of the department so well. Whenever we need him, we just give him a phone call and he's there," Wayman said.

When Mink is on duty, he mostly patrols. He said he liked to park his patrol car and walk around schools and neighborhoods. He often can be seen in uniform at football and soccer games. He is a firm believer in Wayman's theory that the mere presence of a police officer makes people think twice about breaking the law.

"Not everybody has to be out writing tickets," Mink explained. "But if the car's sitting at Ida, watching the light for example, I swear you'll slow down 500 people within a 10-minute period. They may speed a couple of blocks away, but at least the presence of an officer there - whether it be a reserve or not - that has a tendency to slow people down."

With 22 years as a military police officer and 12 as a reserve officer on the Lansing force, Mink's seen the technology associated with law enforcement change. Today he uses lasers, Tasers and computers. It wasn't always so.

"I actually was in the military when we had the old mirror box" to catch speeders, Mink recalled. "You had a stopwatch and you'd watch the mirror. When the car went through the mirror, you'd click the stopwatch. The mirrors were distanced so far, so you knew they would take five second to get to the next box. If they did it in three, you knew they were speeding."

Reserve officers are unpaid volunteers. To Mink, it's all about giving back to a community that's been good to him.

"It's a very good community. Lansing has the better schools, the better government, our city council seems to really care about what's going on, so I don't mind putting in 20 hours a month," he said. "I enjoy Lansing and don't mind returning the favor."

Now 51, though, Mink says his days on the force probably will be coming to an end before too long.

"It's a young man's game, there's no doubt about it," he said. "The days of me getting out and chasing some guy down to tackle him, that's probably a thing of the past. These kids nowadays, they can run."

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