The recent change regarding reserve training would be unattainable for my department. We rely a great deal on reserve officers, especially for events that require crowd and traffic control. Without their help, the county would have to use overtime funds to employ regular officers at a large cost, and, such deployment would more than likely deplete regular patrol to an extent that other law enforcement priorities would be compromised.
The training envisioned by the new standard is not attainable by the typical reserve officer. Remember, these individuals are not paid by the department: they work full time in separate careers. To ask them to put in the same number of hours as our regular officers would be a death sentence for the program. Indiana Code 36-8-3-20 specifically enumerates the training required for these unpaid officers. The state mandated training is a 40 hour pre-basic course and the mandated yearly in-service training. This level is significantly less rigorous than the training our reserve officers receive. The additional training that our officers do receive is meant to be commensurate with the level of activity in which they are involved. The reserve officer, after meeting the state requirements, goes through a training process that qualifies the reserve officer for various activities. These activities are then signed off by a training officer as the reserve officer progresses and logs hours on duty. It should be emphasized that at no time is a reserve officer acting alone without the oversight of a regular county officer nor does an officer perform duties that he or she has not demonstrated satisfactorily to a regular officer. Nor is there ever a situation where a set of reserves are running a shift alone, etc., although, by law, this would be possible. We believe that Harrison County’s level of training and oversight is adequate in the face of potential legal liabilities that can come up. It should be remembered that this department is going beyond what is required by law in Indiana. Therefore, a suit against the department, given we adhere to our own policies and procedures, while always possible, would in all likelihood fail.
In another sense, political subdivisions will not give up that kind of authority or free labor. One must remember that we operate with a budget controlled by elected officials, who are always concerned about cost. In addition, the reserve program, as it stands, is a big win in public relations for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it allows people who are pro-police to put on the uniform and perform certain prescribed and supervised duties without the burden of taking leave from their regular jobs to meet the full training required of paid officers. Some of our reserves are business owners and the like; maybe not so called “pillars” of the community, but they’re pretty close.
In short, think of it this way: Your department is responding to a natural disaster. Volunteers show up to fill sandbags, but you turn them away because they have not had the full on FEMA/First Responder training. The town is destroyed, but you don’t have to worry about untrained people suing you when they get sand in their shoes. I know there are liabilities, but sometimes the worry about contrived legal bogeymen can stand in the way of common sense.
It is my understanding that there is a move afoot to amend this standard to something that small departments like ours can live with. If it is not amended, we will leave CALEA.
Sheriff, Harrison County Indiana