On a day when St. Paul was reeling from three homicides in the span of nine hours, Police Reserve Sgt. Bob Krizmanic patrolled city streets on a much lower-intensity mission — looking for abandoned bicycles.
He didn’t have much luck Tuesday, as at several stops from Highland Park to Mac-Groveland to the Midway, the bikes that had been reported abandoned were gone or the person who’d called it in wasn’t answering the phone. Krizmanic was undeterred.
“Honestly, this allows us to free up licensed officers to do the hard stuff while making positive contact with residents,” he said. “I like rolling down the windows, driving slowly, so I can talk to people.”
Making a city safer is more than police officers speeding from one crisis to another. Sometimes it involves a soft-spoken attorney volunteering hundreds of hours a year directing traffic, stringing up police tape or rounding up bicycles dumped in people’s yards. The St. Paul Police Community Partnerships Unit sends out reserve officers to city neighborhoods in response to calls about bicycles that have been lying around for more than five days.
Krizmanic, a reserve officer since 2014, regularly directs traffic, cordons off crash scenes and works at events such as the Twin Cities Marathon and the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Driving an old squad car with a bicycle rack on back and a three-ring binder filled with recovered bicycle reports tucked above a sun visor, Krizmanic said he enjoys patrol.
“St. Paul is my beat,” he said, smiling.
Recovering bicycles and other reserve roles help police better serve the public, said Cmdr. Pamela Barragan, head of the Community Partnerships Unit. At a time when 911 calls are skyrocketing, Barragan said the 60 to 70 volunteer officers perform a vital service for the department’s 600-plus sworn officers.
“We cannot do the job by ourselves. It can be an overwhelming workload,” Barragan said. “When they go into the neighborhood, recover bicycles, connect with the community, they contribute to the quality of life of the community.”
Krizmanic, 28, came to Minnesota from Maryland to attend law school at the University of Minnesota. He had been a police explorer back home in the Baltimore area and wanted to maintain a connection with law enforcement here. Not a practicing attorney, he works for Thomson Reuters in Eagan with clients who subscribe to the company’s legal software. He’s been a sergeant in the reserves for the past year and a half and supervises six to 12 reserve officers each 4- to 10-hour shift he works.
He volunteers at least 100 hours a year. One year, before meeting his girlfriend, the St. Paul resident said he once logged more than 300 hours.
“It’s a very good opportunity to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s good to get outside.”
What he is not, Krizmanic said, is a wannabe cop.
Reserves are not licensed peace officers. They have no gun, make no arrests and issue no tickets. Reserve officers receive 40 hours of classroom instruction and another 20 hours of field training, learning CPR and basic first aid, and how to handcuff suspects (when assisting police) and basic defensive tactics.
“Technically, we can make citizen’s arrests,” he said. “That being said, I’ve never made one and I never plan to make one. I tell candidates: ‘If you’re here to chase down bad guys, this is probably not the program for you.’ ”
That said, there are risks. Krizmanic wears a uniform, after all. And drives a squad car. Reserve officers have been assaulted. He wears a bullet-resistant vest under his shirt. His mother, he admits, worries.
Once, he was flagged down by motorists involved in a road-rage incident, with one wielding a baseball bat. He persuaded them to wait by the side of the road until the regular squad arrived.
On this day, however, what he did not do was recover a bicycle. After several calls to homeowners went unanswered, he stopped at an address on Sherburne Avenue. A man answered the door, but Krizmanic returned to his car empty-handed.
“He said [the bicycle] was on his lawn, and over the course of the week, it made its way down the street,” Krizmanic said.
Even for a reserve officer, it seems, timing is everything.