For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Washington, D.C., police department will issue guns to the volunteer officers who help back up the city’s patrol force, reports the Washington Post. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is expected to arm the reserve officers next month with police-issue Glock semiautomatic pistols as part of a move to raise the force’s visibility and capitalize on the volunteers’ free labor. About half a dozen reserve officers will be in the first group to be armed after they pass background and psychological checks. They completed 40 hours of classroom training and qualified on the firing range this year. Dozens of volunteers might be used to back up professional officers with force, if necessary, in coming years.
Officials plan to start firearms training for about 25 more reserve officers this summer. The city is mapping a five-year plan to increase the size of the corps and expand its responsibilities. The department’s Reserve Corps includes more than 160 trained volunteers who help with traffic, crowd control, patrol, and administrative duties. They are required to work a minimum of 16 hours a month. Although they wear the same uniforms as sworn officers, the volunteers carry only police batons, cellphones, and a pepper-type spray. Some reserve officers have waited years for the chance to get a gun, and they consider carrying a firearm an opportunity to be more useful. The department stopped giving firearms training to reserve officers in the late 1980s. The D.C. Council worried that the city would not hire enough paid officers if volunteers could wield the same power.