WHICH ONE OF US IS THE REAL COP?
For a very long time, there have been volunteers active in law enforcement. For a much shorter time, there have been individuals who have been paid to enforce the law.
We reach a time today when a few members of each group are proactively trying to discredit the others. The professionals claim that the volunteers are not well trained, and/or they are undependable and erratic in their performance. The volunteers, on the other hand, say that many of the professionals are in it only for the money. Compassion and service are not in their vocabulary.
Those are strong words among those who pledge allegiance to a Brotherhood.
Both groups made great contributions. But, there is the ultimate sacrifice: giving one’s life for others. According to the Bible, it is the greatest contribution a man can make: giving his life for a friend. More than 145 career officers made that sacrifice in 2018, alone.
But, when most think of volunteers (often called “Reserve Officers”), the public thinks of them helping out, doing menial tasks, but nothing really serious. But, don’t say that of Lt. Danny Kramer of the Taylor [MI] Police or of Officer Ricardo Davis of the Washington Park [IL] Police. The names of those two ‘volunteer’ cops are engraved on the National Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. They made the ultimate sacrifice.
Those two ‘volunteer’ cops gave their lives in service to our Country.
A SHORT HISTORY
This humble author grew up and raised his family in Metro Detroit, MI. In the interest of simplicity, I am writing this from the aspect of a Detroiter.
Looking back as recently as the 1950’s (yes, I remember those years), it was important for a cop to have certain traits or skills:
- Common sense
- Good communication skills
- A fundamental grasp of the law, i.e. essentially knowing when you see someone breaking the law
- Basic skills, e.g. writing, driving, talking clearly
At the point in my life that I was considering a law enforcement career, a pal of mine from the gym spoke with me about it. He was a Detroit copper. He told me that back when he hired on, a cop’s training consisted of riding with a seasoned officer for ONE WEEK after which, he was given his own car, a gun and a policy manual.
Viola! He was a cop. He worked on his own after that short amount of training. He survived and generally, he did well.
About 1965, the state passed a law establishing the Michigan Law Enforcement Officer Training Council (MLEOTC) which determined that said (in part) that the MLEOTC will:
- Require all Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) to be certified there were the following exceptions:
- An LEO may work for two years prior to being certified*
- Part-time officers*
- Volunteer officers, e.g. Reserve / Auxiliary Officers*
- Set the training requirements for certification
- All LEOs must attend a state-certified academy
- The state will set the curriculum for certified academies
- Certified academies will be conducted at an approved community college with the following exceptions:
- Michigan State Police
- City of Detroit Police Department
- City of Flint Police Department
When did it change? you ask. For Michigan, it was about 1965.
Were cops terrible and out-of-control back then? you ask. No.
* This was done at the request of small agencies that often allowed a new officer to work for a short time in order to evaluate whether or not they were qualified to become an LEO.
In order to understand why the state took control one must consider times.
It was a decade of government expansion under Kennedy and Johnson.
The federal government passed sweeping new laws:
- The Civil Rights Act of 1963
- The War on Poverty
- Establish the War on Poverty
Over the years, as new social issues arose OR some “do-gooder” decided that LEOs needed to provide new services, the academy curriculum was expanded. The state-certified academies require 16 weeks with 40 hours each week of training. It is now about 26 weeks long – yes, that’s half a year.
HERE COME THE UNIONS
Unionization of large cities in the north came first. It spread the smaller communities in the north and some cities in the south. Small cities and small agencies largely remained non-union.
Over time, wages and benefits rose as the unions bargained for them.
In Michigan each agency determined their own training regimen and the list of approved tasks for volunteers. When on the street they had to work under the supervision of a certified officer.
Each state set their own rules as to what tasks these officers perform.
For example, California established the Police Officers Training Council (POST). Reserve officers had three levels/classes.
- The least trained were restricted to assist the agency administratively. They do not go on the street and had little contact with the public.
- A mid-level reserve (in California) could only work under the supervision of a certified officer.
- The highest level required a reserve officer to have the same training as a fully certified officer and they had the same authority and responsibility as a fully certified officer.
In Florida, all reserve officers are required to have the same training as a fully certified officer.
I started as a Reserve Officer in Michigan. I attended a reserve academy which was held at a community college three nights and Saturdays weekly for 16 weeks. It was the same duration as the full academy with most subjects abbreviated compared to the ‘full’ academy.
IT’S A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP
There can often be animosity between the full-time officers who are paid and worked 40 hours and the volunteer officers. Some of them work 20-30 hours weekly.
As I said earlier, the certified officers would frequently claim that the volunteers weren’t qualified to do their jobs due to the training difference. That was a subterfuge. The real reason for their dislike of volunteer officers was that the volunteers was ‘stealing’ overtime from the certified guys.
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) my last agency had the best arrangement for volunteer officers. Reserve officers were allowed to perform all tasks that a certified officer could perform except make traffic stops. My work hours on the street were: a third working with a certified officer; a third working with my Partner (the best guy, ever); a third alone.
MEDIA JUMPS IN
Recently, the largest newspaper in Michigan released the results of a “major study” that they performed. Unfortunately, the eleven-page article denigrated volunteer officers, diminished their contribution and contained the words and phrases frequently uttered by the union leaders in that state. Some examples:
“They look like cops, but they’re not. And, they’re all over Michigan.
“… they’re not real cops.”
“These armed civilians are unregulated.”
“… no state-established training requirements.”
“… no standards for screening their qualifications, no process for monitoring their conduct.”
“This lack of oversight continues despite numerous incidents of questionable – even illegal – conduct by reserve officers in recent years.”
The article goes on to talk about, “A former reserve deputy in Oklahoma [who] was convicted after a 2015 incident where he said he confused his handgun for his Taser and fatally shot an unarmed man …” That article failed to mention a fully-certified officer was convicted of the same charge. He was a BART officer in Oakland, CA.
In its closing, the article went on to discuss the, “… more than 3,000 unlicensed armed civilians” who patrol Michigan as volunteers. It paints them as bumbling idiots.
The article uses the same words and phrases throughout as are often heard from the executive director of the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) which is the largest officer union in the state. Its inflammatory language creates a false animosity between the groups of cops and a false fear for Michigan’s civilian residents.
SO, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
As an individual cop, how can you affect the relationship between career and volunteer cops? The list is pretty short: your attitude, your dedication to the job and doing the right thing, your perseverance, and your demeanor. You can decide to be the best cop you can possibly be, no matter what role you play.
I’ve taught in reserve academies for many years. I’ve heard recruits lament about the discord between reserves and career officers. My response has been consistent: If you want to be treated like a cop, act like a cop. Perform dependably and consistently. Adhere to the Code of Ethics. Act like you mean it from your heart. Be there for your brothers and don’t ever fail them.
REMEMBER ALWAYS: There are NO unimportant jobs.
WE ARE BEING OVERWHELMED
Today, there are more demands than ever before. There are more bad guys, and they have better weapons and are better practiced than any adversary we’ve faced in the past. There are terrorists who would do us great harm on a national level. There are active shooters who threaten us at the core – our children in schools.
Our agencies have smaller budgets.
Most patrol crews are running short.
If all that weren’t bad enough, asshole lawyers (some of them) are seeking wild liability awards from our employers. Reacting as expected, decision makers who are above us on the food chain are being guided more by their desire to avoid liability than on choosing the best course of action for the community.
We now need every able-bodied hand on deck. Period.
WHAT CopBlue READERS SAY:
Written by police officers for police officers and on point.
Honestly, all articles have grabbed my attention.
The headlines speak to the reality of the work.
AS A CAREER COP, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you’re a career officer, consider becoming engaged in your agency’s reserve program. If your agency doesn’t have a method for volunteers to help, you might want to suggest starting one.
Some years ago, I drafted a business model that laid out how a department could create a reserve program from scratch. It has been successfully put to use many times over. If you’d like a copy, send me an email requesting it and I’ll send it along.
Offer to review and suggest improvements for the selection and training processes for volunteers. That will ensure you get the best available talent.
AS A VOLUNTEER COP, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Volunteers are motivated differently that you. They are excited about being a cop. They want to make a viable contribution and they need different kinds of rewards than you.
If you’re a reserve officer, make sure that you’re tuned-in to the needs of the career guys. Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Don’t let some jackass administrator put a wedge between you. You live and die together.
Help to improve the selection and in-service training programs. The best volunteer programs are those that train career and volunteer cops together, side-by-side. That keeps everyone operating in lockstep. Maybe you can make that happen where you are.
Realize that for your career brothers, this job is their livelihood. Any threat to it threatens the well-being of their families.
When you are in uniform, take the job as seriously as a heart attack. You are not there for a walk in the park. You are doing the one job where people want to kill you because of the clothes you are wearing. Yes, I said, “kill you.” Remember that.
Finally, remember that some of the career officers have become emotional wrecks. They are assholes at home just the same as they are at work. Don’t take it personally when they grouse about, “reserves.” These guys grouse about everything. Tune them out.
The debate about who is the REAL cop needs to end. We can spend our time debating Sigs vs. Glocks.
We are under siege.
Our resources are limited.
We live in a country that was born of volunteers and those volunteers (now called reserves or auxiliaries) continue to be at the core of its strength. If you doubt that, just look at our military. God bless them all.
Volunteers need to take the job seriously. Our existence depends upon it.
Career officers need to focus on encouraging, supporting, and assisting in the development of volunteer talent – rather than attacking it.
There is plenty of work to go around. The world is full of bad guys and there is no sign that the supply will grow short anytime soon.
At the bottom line, this all about saving just ONE life.
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