Lawrence Keller and Chara Hyduke never had gun-wielding, holster-swatting, badge-toting, "Freeze! You have the right to remain silent" dreams as children. Indeed, a career in law enforcement never crossed their minds.
But on Wednesday evening, the two Prince William residents were among the first group of county citizens to graduate from the Police Department's new Police Auxiliary program, a six-member force of uniformed volunteers who will help sworn officers direct traffic, provide security at parades and perform other ancillary duties.
The volunteers, who were chosen from about 15 applicants in the spring, completed more than 270 hours of instruction in a seven-month training regimen. Before training, they underwent criminal background checks, lie detector tests and psychological examinations to ensure "good character beyond reproach," requirements similar to those of sworn officers.
Initially, county Police Chief Charlie T. Deane was hesitant about the program, as were other officers and commanders, but he applauded it this week and said the volunteers will undoubtedly be an asset to the 364-member sworn force.
"We're embarking on something very new to us, and after much research and thought, we think it's going to be good," Deane said. "I think it's a natural extension of the volunteer program we have."
Prince William police already allow about 20 volunteers to help with data entry and other office work, something Keller did before and during his enrollment in the auxiliary program. The department also runs a Citizens Police Academy, which offers classes and hands-on demonstrations that allow civilians to learn about police work.
The Police Auxiliary Unit, however, requires far more dedication from participants, Deane said. The auxiliary officers must volunteer a minimum of 288 hours a year, or 24 hours a month, to remain active. In return, they will wear special uniforms and assist paid officers in various duties ranging from crowd control to fingerprinting to coordinating Neighborhood Watch groups.
Hyduke, 35, said she applied for the program because of the challenges she knew it would bring.
"I didn't know what I'd face as a woman. The training was real tough at times, but we all had our own walls to climb," she said. "We all overcame them."
Hyduke, who manages a travel agency in Washington, and Keller, who teaches adult computer courses, said they are eager to begin work.
"I just thought this would be a great opportunity for me," said Keller, 51. "And I just saw it as a natural extension of my volunteer work."
Although the auxiliaries are not trained to make arrests or carry firearms, Deane said he thinks that will be the next step in the program.
"I can see us expanding the program and choosing a select few to handle more duties, more similar to our sworn officers," he said. "This was a very deliberate decision for us to try this, because any time you put people in a uniform you have to be very careful. But it looks like we need this now."
This program is not new to Northern Virginia. Law enforcement agencies in Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria and Vienna already allow volunteers to act as auxiliaries.
Deane said Prince William studied the other programs and found them to be successful.
Besides enabling volunteers to participate at a deeper level with sworn officers, Lt. Fred Miller, who helped design the auxiliary program, said he hopes it will serve as a way to establish trust, respect and cooperation in the community.
"We recognize that we need citizen involvement, and this is a way to do it," he said. "This takes a lot off the sworn officers and allows them to work on other things."
Also, he said he hopes the program will serve as a recruiting device. A sworn officer must be at least 21, while the minimum age of an auxiliary officer is 18. That would essentially give a person three years to get an inside look at the Police Department.
Miller said the department has an open enrollment policy; anyone interested is encouraged to apply.
The next class begins in March. For more information, contact the Police Personnel Bureau at 703-792-6580.