Auxiliary Police Officers. Just Add Training

Article excerpt

When patrol officers inquire to management about the hiring of additional officers to deal with the increased calls for service, they are usually greeted with catch phrases such as "do more with less" and "work smarter, not harder." Many police administrators like to proclaim these platitudes as the answer to the department's increasing workloads and dwindling resources.

Increased calls for service, insufficient manpower, rising crime levels, and people's perceptions that when crime touches them, each police department should drop everything else and dedicate 100% of its resources into solving their problem first further aggravate the situation of insufficient personnel.

Many people in the private sector have jobs they don't wish to leave for a career in law enforcement. However, many of these people don't mind participating in the public safety arena. In fact, many people already volunteer as EMTs, firefighters, hospital aides, etc., and several of them might jump at the chance to become reserve officers with a police agency.

The benefits of a well-trained and equipped auxiliary force are numerous. They become additional uniformed personnel in times of need, i.e., riots, natural disasters, major exhibitions, fairs or festivals. They provide added uniformed police presence. Sometimes it is just nice for people to see marked police cars and uniformed officers any time they turn a corner. It is also nice when the bad guys see them, too.

Auxiliary units convert a one-officer car into a two-officer unit, freeing other one-officer cars for additional calls for service in a timely manner. More mundane tasks (prisoner transports, hospital guarding details, delivery of paperwork, etc.) can be performed by auxiliary officers, leaving a patrol unit available to continue to handle calls for service and maintaining shift strength.

This also provides the auxiliary officer with the experience to become an effective "camera ready" officer should he decide to get into law enforcement full time or part time with little or no expense to the hiring agency. Ideally, the agency he has been working for as an auxiliary officer would consider hiring him when the opening becomes available.

Starting a Reserve Officer Force

Collective bargaining agreements can sometimes make auxiliary units impossible. Full-time officers state the fear of losing overtime opportunities is their main reason for opposing its formation. Police administrators also are reluctant to support the creation of an auxiliary force as they sometimes assume this eliminates or greatly reduces their chance of getting additional full-time officers, whom they badly need. There is no answer that appeases both groups, but the positives appear to outweigh the perceived negatives.

Depending upon how the auxiliary force is run, it certainly could reduce overtime. This is always popular with managers. The better trained and qualified a reserve or auxiliary officer is, the more responsibility he can assume. And yes, he may be tasked with an assignment that may have be given out to full-time personnel on an overtime basis. But consider that the majority of auxiliary officers tend to be younger people who are looking for full-time "paying" jobs.

How long will it take for a young, inexperienced auxiliary to become the qualified, experienced officer needed to handle calls for service or specialized assignments that involve overtime pay? And once the auxiliary does have the skill set needed to perform, how long will it be before some other agency sees these skills and offers him the full-time job that he has been seeking since becoming an auxiliary?

The creation of an auxiliary force can only supplement manpower, not eliminate the need for more of it. While auxiliary officers are generally willing to play policemen, they still must do something that pays the bills. Most auxiliary forces require some minimum number of hours to work each month. …