Where Have All the Reserves Gone?Re-thinking reserve requirements and duties
Volunteers in Law Enforcement Contributor
it could be debated as to when and who implemented the first reserve
police officer program in the United States, it can be safely said that
the first units began shortly after the start of World War II. During
this period of time, enlistment in the armed forces and the draft
strained the ranks of many police and sheriff's agencies and as such,
thousands of citizens volunteered their services as auxiliary police
and civil defense volunteers to take up the void left by the war. We
know that large agencies such as the Los Angeles Police Department
enacted, via their City Council, an ordinance in 1947 that established
a formal Police Reserve Corps. A large number of the citizens who
stepped up to help during the war stayed on with the new reserve
organization to continue their role in assisting the police department
in a more formal way.
The responsibilities of many of the new
reserve officer organizations were broadened to include not only the
civil defense aspects, but general police and law enforcement duties as
well. As time went on, standards in selection of personnel and training
were upgraded to meet and to be in compliance with the various states'
Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements.
doesn't seem like that long ago states like California had a large and
strong contingent of sworn reserve officers spread across the state's
agencies. Police and sheriff's agencies enjoyed the extra manpower
which provided, as the name implies, a reserve force of well trained,
dedicated men and women to serve side by side with their full time
About ten years ago, in 1996, the State of
California's POST commission decided to change the training
requirements for those wishing to become Level One reserve officers.
What used to be a training regimen equal to about half of the 700 plus
hours required of a full time officer was now equally required for
those wishing to be a Level One reserve officer, the equivalent patrol
level of a full time sworn officer.
With the new requirements in
place, the "state of reserves" within the State of California has
continued to decline and in some cases, agencies have completely
disbanded their reserve officer programs. The reason is quite simple:
finding willing, able and qualified individuals who work full time jobs
and can also squeeze in 700 plus hours of free time to become a career
volunteer is very difficult. While not all states require this level of
training for their reserves, those that do are also facing a shortage
of higher level reserve officers.
History repeats itself, or does it?
first discussed, the original impetus for the use of reserve officers
began during war time when police agencies' sworn staff were strained.
Fast forward about sixty years from World War II, and one could argue
that we are in effect involved in a world war, but this time against an
enemy who is not centralized in one particular nation but spread out
across the world. Terrorists, along with the states and nations who
sponsor them, can be found to our east, west, and south. One chilling
reality of this new "war" is the drain on our nation's police agencies
as they are being asked to perform more and more "Homeland Security"
functions, usually without the funding to back it. Worse yet, the
increased responsibilities are taking away officers from traditional
crime fighting tasks and as such, violent crime is again on the rise
after a ten year decline. Last year, murders were up 4.8% in our
nation. This may not sound like much until you consider that 4.8%
represents approximately 750 more Americans murdered last year, in
addition to the already 15,495 murdered in 2005. Anyone who has worked
a murder scene or a homicide unit knows how devastating each murder is
to the community and the ripple effect it has on the "secondary
victims." Further, overall violent crime increased 2.5% in 2006. That
increase in overall violent crime represents an additional 32,200
Americans who fell victim to a violent crime, the second worse type of
crime there is, above and beyond the 1,287,981 from 2005.
line is, when you consider the increase in crime, coupled with the
additional Homeland Security duties with little or no cost
reimbursement, magnified by some agency staff members serving in the
active duty military reserves being activated for up to a year at a
time for the war in Iraq, local law enforcement agencies could be
facing some very difficult times in the near future.
news is, for agencies willing to be creative and/or work with their
state POST commissions, as seen during and after World War II, our
nation is filled with dedicated citizens who may be utilized to assist
with specific tasks that can free up our full time officers.
Functional Training versus All-Purpose Training
agencies who hold their reserve officers to the same training standards
as full time sworn officers, and thus are finding it difficult to
recruit new reserves, you may want to consider developing another set
of reserve levels. These new "specialized" reserve officers would only
perform specific tasks that can greatly free up your full time officers
to focus on what they do best, responding to calls for service and
catching the criminals.
As an example, below are several new
levels of reserve officer functions to consider which represent tasks
commonly performed by full time officers, yet may not provide the best
return on investment when it comes to serving your community. In the
below examples, reserve officers would not be required to complete all
the standard training requirements, as their tasks would be limited to
set functions. Rather than creating new training modules, it would make
sense to use those already in place and choose the topics which apply
to your "specialized" reserve levels, similar to ordering a la carte
off a menu versus the full dinner. In doing so, your "specialized"
reserves will receive the training needed to perform their specific
tasks without compromising their training requirements. Upon reviewing
several states new officer recruit training requirements, using this
format could reduce the needed training time by 25% to 50%. If at a
later date your reserves desire to become full functioning reserves,
they could take the remaining classes they missed to complete their
state and/or agency requirements.
purpose of the Custody Reserve is to assist officers with the care,
custody and transport of individuals recently arrested by an officer
who are being detained at the local police facility pending transport
to the county or main jail facility. For agencies who have their
officers transport arrestees, and depending on how far away your main
jail facility is, this one function alone could increase your officers'
time on the street by 20% or more.
Training: Custody Reserves
will receive the basic level of training required to become an entry
level sworn peace officer within your state to include first aid and
CPR. Additional training will be provided to insure the Custody Reserve
is proficient in the use of non-lethal weapons to protect themselves,
such as a baton, pepper spray, and possibly a TASER. Additionally CRs
should be proficient in the use of non-lethal compliance techniques,
cuffing and searching.
function of the Event Reserve is to provide additional staffing for
special events such as high school, college or professional sports
competitions, graduation ceremonies, community fairs, concerts and
other events where large masses of people will be attending for a
limited amount of time.
Training: In addition to the training
provided to a Custody Reserve, Event Reserves will also receive
firearms instruction/certification and traffic control instruction.
communities who use mass transit systems, such as trains, buses, and
subways, TRs will be utilized to supplement the full time force by
specifically patrolling these various methods of transportation,
including the passenger stations.
Training: TRs will receive the
same level of training as an Event Reserve, in addition to specialized
training in the area of Homeland Security awareness for bomb
recognition, chemical agents, and other forms of lethal weapons that
may be employed by terrorists in a mass transit system.
TER--Traffic Enforcement Reserve
agencies who employ full time traffic enforcement officers or wish to,
TERs would be limited to this function of enforcement and would not
respond or be dispatched to general calls for service. TERs may also
receive specialized training in accident investigations, which can be a
tremendous time drain on full time officers.
Training: Due to
the high risk involved while conducting traffic stops, this specialized
level of reserves would most likely receive the highest level of
training, closest to that of regular reserves, and should receive a
significant amount of FTO time with a full time officer to insure they
can safely conduct traffic stops.
The above examples are just
some of the common duties officers perform which take away from their
primary function of responding to calls for service and catching the
bad guys. By thinking unconventionally and working with your reserve
standards committees, the potential to keep more officers on the street
to help combat the nation's rise in crime and offsetting any Homeland
Security duties is tremendous. In the end, not only will your full time
officers enjoy spending more time on the street doing what they do
best, your specialized reserve officers will also benefit from becoming
more proficient at the task they've chosen to do.
* National Association Citizens on Patrol
* Public Safety Volunteer Institute
Femister is the president and founder of the National Association
Citizens On Patrol, a Citizen Corp Partner dedicated to supporting law
enforcement volunteers and coordinators with emphasis on citizen patrol
organizations. His position provides him with a unique insight to both
volunteers and coordinators alike. In addition, Mr. Femister travels
the nation each month conducting two-day workshops titled "How to
Recruit, Manage, Reward and Retain Law Enforcement Volunteers" through
the Public Safety Volunteer Institute, which he founded in 2003. To
date, members of hundreds of agencies from throughout the nation have
attended these workshops, providing him with further insight to the
needs of volunteers, coordinators and agencies. Mr. Femister has
appeared on TV, newspapers, and radio, and continues to volunteer each
month with a California sheriff's department. Mr. Femister is a member
of the National Criminal Justice Editors Group. He can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.