BEMIDJI — After 20 years as a community fixture, the Bemidji Citizen Patrol is calling it quits.
Representatives of the volunteer patrol, which worked with the Bemidji Police Department, announced at Monday's City Council meeting that it will end its services at the end of the month. A news release said the group is disbanding due to a lack of new membership and "exhaustion" of current members.
"We ran out of gas," said patrol member and former captain Dave Quam. "We didn't have people interested ... that we were interested in, so a couple months ago I turned to everybody and said, 'It's clearly time to shut down.'"
At its height, the citizen patrol had about 20 active members and at times. Now it has just nine, many of whom are aging, according to member Robert Melchior.
Training requirements for those interested in participating in the patrol have changed since the group formed, Quam said. Current members would have had to go through extensive training to be kept up-to-date.
"When we went into the citizen patrol, the (police) department put on a really good training program," he said. "The training we would need to get updated would be significant, and none of us wanted to really go through that."
Members of the patrol assisted the police department in a range of ways, from helping keep crime scenes secure to locating lost children at busy events.
Quam said he joined about a decade ago and helped the group set up a system for radio communications.
"It was very comfortable," Quam said. "Your group would go around and try to find the missing child or the missing parents, and we always did, and of course that's kind of rewarding."
Melchior, who was a member of the citizen patrol since its inception, said current members are aging. And while younger people are interested in joining the police reserves, they aren't showing interest in the responsibilities Melchior and Quam were happy to take on.
"We did mostly traffic and parades and major events like the carnivals and so on and all we were was eyes and ears," Melchior said. "The present-day police reserves, a lot of those young guys and young women are looking at a career in law enforcement...they're signing up in the more exciting activity part."
Quam and Melchior aren't sure how the city will fill the gap left by the patrol. At least two members will join the Beltrami County Mounted Posse and others plan to stay involved with the police reserves, according to patrol member Arnold Hallan, who also has been with the organization since it formed.
"I think during the Water Carnival, and the parade especially, and at the fairgrounds (the patrol) will be missed because they did such a good job at recovering or finding lost children," Quam said. "As far as the parades are concerned, I'm not sure what's going to happen."
At Monday's City Council meeting, Mayor Rita Albrecht thanked the group for its years of service.
"I want to thank each and every one of you," Albrecht said to the members in attendance Monday, Aug. 21. "You've been a great asset for our community and for our police department."