By the thousands, volunteers across the nation sign up to help local law enforcement agencies as reserve police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Most perform routine duties in unpaid anonymity, but a few become known as heroes or rogues, reports the Associated Press. Among that vast contingent of reservists was Robert Bates, a 73-year-old insurance executive, who has been charged with manslaughter in the death of a man shot as he lay on the ground in Tulsa. The incident rekindled discussion about the widespread use of reserve officers, including many authorized to carry firearms even though they may undergo far less training than regular officers. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin in 2006 estimated the national total of reserve officers at 400,000.
In Oklahoma, every reserve deputy is required to complete a minimum of 240 hours of training on legal basics, investigative procedures and use of firearms. Reserve deputies in Tulsa County get even more training — 320 hours — but that is only half the requirement for a regular full-time officer. Nationally, a major rationale for reserve programs is to provide extra manpower for budget-strapped departments, so that regular officers are freed up to concentrate on high-priority duties. While some reserve officers receive modest compensation, most work without pay, and many are expected to provide their own uniforms and equipment.