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Duluth Police Reserves provide aid, direct traffic — and offer a friendly hello

Duluth Police Reserve members Donna Beaupre (left) and Becky Lesch move barricades into position while closing off Harbor Drive in Duluth as they prepare for Fourth of July fireworks Friday. (Clint Austin / / 3
Duluth police officer Bill Stovern (left) laughs while joking around with Duluth Police Reserve member Donna Beaupre as they work on Harbor Drive during Duluth’s Fourth of July celebration Friday. Stovern is a liason between the police department and the police reserves. (Clint Austin / / 3
Duluth police officer Bill Stovern (left) Stovern gives directions to Duluth Police Reserve members for closing off Harbor Drive in preparation for Duluth’s Fourth of July celebration Friday. (Clint Austin / / 3

By day, Donna Beaupre is retired.

She’s had a few different jobs, ranging from insurance to working for St. Louis County. But when there are major high-traffic events such as Grandma’s Marathon, the Christmas City of the North parade or Friday’s Fourth Fest celebration, Beaupre dons a uniform and works as a civilian assistant to officers from the Duluth Police Department.

Beaupre, 71, is part of the 22-member crew of Duluth Police Reserves — a group of volunteers who mostly mind traffic but are sometimes called on to help find lost children, provide medical assistance, answer questions about the city’s trolley system or give advice on parking matters.

There were six reserves and a handful of park rangers assisting police officers near Bayfront Festival Park on Friday. Thousands of people were expected to listen to music, hit the Mighty Thomas Carnival and check out the fireworks display.

One appeal of volunteering:

“It’s fun to get out and see people,” Beaupre said.

 Beaupre and fellow reserve Becky Lesch, a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service, started their Fourth Fest shifts by slipping into neon vests and barricading Harbor Drive against through traffic.

These barricades — striped boards propped on saw horses — work sometimes.

“It’s amazing,” Lesch said. “People see a barricade and think it isn’t for them.”

Beaupre has a trick for that. She’s been doing the job long enough to know what will stop traffic. She was short on barricades and cones during her Grandma’s Marathon shift but had some leftover police tape in her car.

That solved that.

“People don’t drive around yellow tape,” she said.

Both Beaupre and Lesch found out about the Duluth Police Reserves after attending the Citizen Police Academy, weekly sessions that include classroom and field training about the responsibilities of police officers.

Beaupre was encouraged to join by her neighbor, Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. She said she suspects it’s because she likes to talk to people and is friendly.

Lesch said she has an interest in law enforcement. She’s also part of the Air National Guard.

“As military you have that inborn need to serve,” she said.

The reserves wear black pants and a blue polo-style shirt marked with the words “Duluth Police Reserves.” They don’t carry weapons but are given a badge, police radio and chemical aerosol.

Some of the volunteers use the reserves as a way to prepare for a career.

Brad Jago, head reserve, graduated from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s law enforcement program.

He’s making connections as a reserve.

Jago said he would be partnered with police officers and charged with directing traffic away from the event and keeping pedestrians safe after the fireworks display.

A few years ago, Jago was on hand to call for official backup on a nearby altercation that included a knife.

He’s also been asked for a restaurant recommendation – someplace nice with a view.

His pick: Va Bene. Caffe.

“Then they came back to tell me it was a good recommendation,” Jago said.

Officer Bill Stovern, who is a liaison between the police department and the reserves, said the police department could never stock something such as Fourth Fest with only paid officers.

“(The reserves) are the people that make a lot of these events possible,” he said.

Become a reserve

Interested in becoming a Duluth Police Reserve?

The position is open to anyone 18 and older with a clean record.

Contact Sgt. Ryan Morris at (218) 730-5655.