Considering Adding a Reserve Police Force?
Many cities around the country have part-time officers to supplement their regular
force. Also, there are departments around the country that rely exclusively on
reserve or auxiliary officers to provide service to their communities. There are
over 18,000 state and local police agencies in the U.S. In these there are about
765,000 full-time sworn officers and about 44,000 part-time (about 6%). On
average nationwide there are about 250 full-time sworn police per 100,000
population. A lot of cities across the U.S. are well below this percentage.
Most areas have many certified law enforcement officers that are either working
in smaller departments, or not yet employed in law enforcement. This proposal
consideration for law enforcement departments or agencies discusses the
advantages and some disadvantages of creating a reserve, special, auxiliary, or
part-time unit of legally trained law enforcement officers to supplement or in
smaller communities provide full police protection. It is meant to stimulate
discussion within the ranks of departments and communities and if there is a
general acceptance of the key principles a group should be formed to discuss
this proposal in-depth with city administrators and chiefs of police.
Calls for Service
Some departments have formed a type of citizen’s police unit, they are not
empowered to make arrests or carry guns. In addition, these units typically ride
with officers and are assigned special areas to assist in crowd control at special
events. With Reserve officers (called by other departments as auxiliary, special,
part-time, deputies, etc) do have powers of arrest and can carry weapons. Most
are assigned just like other full-time officers in patrol cars or other vehicles. They
respond and generally handle every call that full-time officers do.
Since they have been thru the police academy and are certified by the state, they
are trained just like their full-time counterparts. They can respond to calls for
service, emergency calls, traffic accident investigation, and serve court papers.
These Reserve officers typically have government insurance on them in case
they are injured or are involved in some civil litigation. Some departments
require that they waive injury and health care coverage and mandate they obtain
This increase amount of police officers can cover a wider area, intensify in areas
of high police calls, and respond much faster to emergency situations. When
citizens call because someone is in a traffic accident, someone is breaking into
their house, or were just assaulted, they don’t care who responds as long as it is
a cop. On the down side, these officers might not be totally familiar with an area
or the most recent criminal activity in bad neighborhoods. Never-the-less, most
departments utilizing Reserves have multiple officers respond to major events so
full-time officers can take charge should Reserve officers get there first.
Officers Available from the Area
Typically in a city or village and the surrounding counties there are many certified
officers that are not employed in law enforcement. It could be that they have
recently graduated from the police academy, just retired, or have switched
careers. One only needs to check the local or regional police schools or
community colleges that offer state certified police training to see that there are
many graduates not yet employed. Also, newly graduated officers from other
nearby or even distant areas might wish to relocate to their area for jobs if they
have an opportunity to serve part-time on a police department.
In addition, local smaller villages have officers that could work part-time in the
larger city or cities. Finally, the Sheriff’s Office and Prisons have some officers
that are police certified and are now working in other related fields. The pool of
trained officers is abundant, it is just that departments need to utilize them.
Contractual agreements within those department might have to be modified to
permit their officers to serve part-time in another jurisdiction or agency.
Managing the New Unit
In many jurisdictions that employ or have Reserve officers a special commander
is in charge of them. It could be a full-time officer or a Reserve officer with many
years of full-time service. These administrators or managers keep the part-time
officers informed of new laws, new requirements for additional training, and
update them on present day events or problem areas. They in essence
supervise them to ensure they are integrated within the department. Of course
there can be resentment from the full-time officers, but if they are shown to be
there to assist and complement the full-time officers, it will reduce any possible
friction. Remember full-time officers are there to serve not be kings of policing.
A strong message from the chief to all units that arrogance, insensitivity, and
reluctance to adopt and implement them within the department will not be
tolerated. “Turf battles” do occur in or between most organizations, but with
superior administrative and supervisory personnel it can be greatly reduced. A
classic case is between some Sheriffs and the State Police. Most state Sheriffs
have full police powers and conduct patrols. Citizens benefit from more officers
on the streets. In fact, in the majority of the states, Sheriffs are highly regarded
and have police powers. Within States that have sheriffs with no police powers
or states that have state police with only traffic enforcement suffer from the turf
zone mentality. Victims wait longer for help, and there are less officers out there
to catch the bad guys and girls.
Pay or No Pay
Why would anyone work for free? Thankfully, in America we have large numbers
of civic minded individuals. They are concerned about specific issues or causes.
Thus, they devote some of their free time for those purposes. Just like volunteer
firemen, many people take on challenging and dangerous work for their
communities. Reserve officers are the same. They wish to serve. Keep in mind
that is the motto of most police departments.
All over the country there are many different formulas for paying Reserve
officers. Some are non-paid, others pay some. It could be an hourly rate or one
big party during the summer (hot-dogs, pepsi, and suds). Should a department
adopt a Reserve unit, this matter might require additional funding. Perhaps the
first year can be unpaid and the next, with positive results, might encourage
citizens to vote for a small levy to pay for this unit. Possible funding can come
from large local corporations and civic minded businesses. If we ask, most
reputable groups and businesses will fund this new unit.
Free Training Prior to Hiring Full-Time from a Pool of Candidates.
Another great advantage is having a large pool of trained and certified officers to
hire full-time from. They will be familiar with all the officers on the department, the
city, and special issues specific to that area. When the city recruits new full-time
officers it can have a wider selection from national, state, and within the
department itself to choose from. Should a city create a Reserve officer, it will
not have to train him or her and it will be able to shorten the field training period.
This saves money for the city to reinvest in maintaining the Reserve unit.
Furthermore, hiring from within the department might increase others to join the
Reserve unit in hopes of eventually getting hired full-time. Also, their
performance will be better and less likely to be confrontational with the public.
After all, they are having a “track record” at the department that can be used to
assess the merits of hiring them full-time. Anything that saves the community
money and increases public services is a win-win for the department and the
citizens they serve.
Community Interaction, Relations, and Increased Patrols
Over the past several years we have seen an increase in “reported and alleged”
police illegal or inappropriate behavior. Most cities have not suffered that to a
great extent yet. But, some neighborhoods within larger cities still don’t trust the
police and are reluctant to assist the police with their investigations. With more
officers coming from the ranks of Reserve units we can put extra patrols and beat
cops into the lesser affluent neighborhoods—a form of Neighborhood patrol
When we assign more units in these areas we can bridge different cultures and
social classes. Thus, building bridges over perceived correct or incorrect views
that are negative towards each other. Officers will be seen more as a friendly
face to serve citizens and prevent crime, while citizens will be less likely to be
viewed as trouble, a hassle, or potential criminal violator. Only when officers
stop, get out of their cars, and speak to people can relationships be developed.
With additional Reserve units this can easily be done without reducing patrols in
other areas. In fact these units might even know someone in “bad
Many police departments around the country utilize part-time officers to either
serve as the only officers in smaller jurisdictions or to supplement larger
departments. They have been used successfully in the vast majority of time and
rarely do they get disbanded for poor performance. The benefits seem to
outweigh the disadvantages and departments should consider implementing
some form of Reserve Unit. Should they create a part-time unit we will have
many more officers on the streets making the city safer and being more able to
serve the community. There are many trained and certified officers in most areas
that are waiting for someplace to serve. Whether it be new graduates who have
paid for their own training at a police academy, smaller departments, The
Sheriff’s Office, or someone in corrections. These officers are already able to
perform full-time police work. Initial funding of the unit can come from community
businesses that want to be more civic minded.
Supervising them can be easy with full-time supervisors already on the force. In
addition many retired offices might come back to help out. The city will have a
more locally trained and integrated group of officers to consider for full-time
employment in the future. Community relations will be more positive and
preventing criminal activities can occur more as a result of more officers in
certain areas on patrol. Lastly, these Reserve officers might be assigned nights
and weekends which better matches their ability to work. This results in the
possibility of more full-time officers being able to work days and not weekends.
Let’s hope that this proposal gets some attention and the walls of we area better
than them falls down.