By Troy Wolbersen, Douglas County sheriff
As a kid, when I heard the words sheriff’s posse, I envisioned the sheriff and a group of men on horses chasing down armed outlaws that just robbed the town bank. In the old western movies I watched, the sheriff quickly formed a group of armed citizens, deputized them, and they rode out of town in a cloud of dust in pursuit of the dangerous outlaws.
As exciting as that sounds, the duties of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Posse are a bit different, yet there are some similarities to the posses of old. The DCSP is a standing unit of volunteer men and women that are members of the community that exist to assist the sheriff and other law enforcement agencies in the county.
The posse can be called upon for many purposes. They do not chase down armed outlaws, but the DCSP does have a small, mounted unit that utilizes horses to assist in searches and do some ceremonial duties such as being flag bearers in parades. The horses are owned by posse members, and the horses and posse members are specially trained for public safety purposes.
The DCSP is often seen throughout Douglas County providing security at fire or crime scenes, directing traffic, patrolling the Central Lakes Trail and anything else where we need additional assistance.
Posse members do not wear guns, but they are trained in self-defense tactics, handcuffing and the use of chemical aerosols (“mace”). They sometimes guard low-risk inmates for us at the hospital or are the second person on an inmate transport.
Posse members are true volunteers. They are not paid, and there are no retirement benefits. They are dedicated folks from all walks of life that want to serve their community. The most common statement I hear when we interview prospective candidates for the posse is that they want to give back to their community.
The Sheriff’s Posse is traditionally active at our many large warm weather events here in Douglas County. They can be seen providing traffic control and security at the county fair, outdoor music events, graduation at Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC) and so much more.
With COVID-19, many large events have been canceled so the posse has been less visible, but rest assured, they are still here. This year the Sheriff’s Posse played a critical role following the downtown Alexandria fire. These volunteers provided many hours of security at the fire scene. They stood watch, before the scene could be secured with fencing, to keep the area safe and to deter late-night visitors. They have also provided much needed traffic control at events such as the community-wide mask distribution held by Helping Hands at the ATCC.
The DCSP usually consists of 25-30 members and is currently led by Captain Russ Esterberg. The posse is a group of dedicated volunteers that together form a very cohesive unit. Ken Kloubec was a charter member of the DCSP. Ken passed away last year and was in his 44th year as a posse member. His service was so valuable to this community, and he is missed.
Becoming a member of this cohesive unit requires an application, interview and background check. Applicants must be 21 years old, live in Douglas County and have a recent physical exam from their doctor. Members are provided with uniforms, a radio and other necessary equipment.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Posse provides a valuable service to our community. Maybe you want to be there the next time the sheriff needs his posse!
Troy Wolbersen is the Douglas County sheriff. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.