Reserve Officers Have Badges, Guns And Possibly No Police Training


Thousands of reserve officers are boosting the ranks of law-enforcement agencies, carrying badges and guns but often lacking the qualifications or experience of their full-time counterparts, reports the Wall Street Journal. Also called auxiliary officers, reserves mostly work part time; some volunteer, others are paid. Use of such officers has been a boon for cash-strapped departments, but their assignments vary widely from state to state, drawing concern that some can have the power of police without the skill or seasoning. Reserve policing came into the spotlight after Robert Bates, a volunteer Oklahoma deputy, 73, shot and killed a man this month after apparently mistaking his revolver for a stun gun. (The Tulsa World reported that Bates’ training records were falsified.)

“The potential danger arises when you have these officers, who don't receive anywhere near the amount of training a regular full-time police officer receives, put into situations where they're actually carrying out somewhat dangerous police functions,” said criminologist Thomas Nolan of Merrimack College. The New York Police Department’s 4,500 auxiliaries lack arrest power and can't carry guns. Training varies. Massachusetts requires 310 hours of training for reserves, compared with 800 for regular officers. Louisiana doesn't require training, although reserves must pass firearms qualifications and some do the same training as full-time officers. “You can't even cut hair or work on plumbing in someone's house without the proper training,” said Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator. “Yet you can ride around and stop people and make life-and-death decisions and not be trained at all.”

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