Newsletter: South Carolina enacts sensible law for officers
Washington, D.C. reserves: unpaid, outgunned
Last May, a police reserve officer in the District of Columbia and two full-time officers leaped out of their patrol cars to chase three shooting suspects. When they caught up, the suspects had a 9mm pistol.
The reserve had a flashlight.
He “had them at gunpoint with my finger”, meaning he hides one hand behind his flashlight so suspects will think he’s pointing gun.
He said, “you point a very bright flashlight, and most people will assume a police officer would have a gun.”
His actions won him the department’s silver medal. But other reserve corps officers say his situation is common. The poorly managed, mostly unarmed D.C. police reserves often fact criminals with little more than a blue uniform and a bluff.
The 114 officers are citizens who volunteer for the police department in their off-hours — on patrol, in investigations and helping with traffic and crowd control — because they enjoy police work and want to serve the community. They say the department has neglected the reserve program in recent years. They are often sent on dangerous patrols without guns, with little supervision and with limited police powers.
Reserves say only their own initiative and improvisation — from the finger trick to bending the rules governing their police authority — to get them through patrol.
Formed out of the World War II Civil Defense Force, the reserve corps commemorated its 50th anniversary last month. But its officers, who serve under part-time commanders, say their current situation gives them little to celebrate.
The corps’ membership is down from several hundred a few years ago.
Although they are theoretically required to work 12 to 16 hours per month, many reserves work far fewer hours, and several don’t work at all.
The active reserves say their biggest worry is that those who do work a routine schedule are sent out on the same kinds of patrols as regular officers, wearing the same uniforms but usually unarmed and often with limited powers.
Reserves also complain that sometimes they are sent to work in police district stations that aren’t expecting them because the commanders have not been notified. Coordination between reserves and regulars in the districts has been so bad that last year, a Maryland man who had obtained a D.C. police reserve badge allegedly made arrests and booked suspects in a police district without anyone noticing that he was not a reserve. After his arrest, the program was suspended, and reserves were issued new identification cards.
Reserve have their own disciplinary system that parallels that of regular officers and are defended by the District’s corporation counsel if they are sued.
The Washington POST interviewed Otto Vehle, national director of the Reserve Law Officers Association of America on how reserves elsewhere in the country compare with those in the District of Columbia. He said “It is very dangerous for everybody concerned” for patrolling reserves to be unarmed. He estimated that over 90% of the 333,000 reserve officers currently working are armed.
Experts at the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and the International Association of Chief of Police agree.
Gary Hankins, a retired D.C. police officer and former union head, is an advocate for the reserves.
“Just look at it — members of the community, working for free, to serve and protect other members of the community,” Hankins said. “There’s no question that they are not being used to even a significant fraction of their potential.
The Washington POST article was written by Arthur Santana and David A. Fahrenthold, Staff Writers, and appeared on page B01, Tuesday, October 17, 2000.
|Not just booze anymore
Methamphetamines and marijuana are increasingly popular among teens, and police say parents should know the signs.
Smelling a kid’s breath used to be the way parents checked for alcohol use.
Booze is still the drug of choice among teens, but there’s a whole cornucopia of drugs now being used by youths, and some of the warning signs have changed.
When a teen experiences steady weight loss, sleeps all day, or is awake for two days straight, he or she many be one of the growing number of kids using methamphetamines.
Law enforcement officers say meth use among teens has increased at an alarming rate, joining the old standbys of pot and alcohol.
Meth is an upper. People who use it are real active and have a short attention span. Also known as crank, crystal, ice, and croak, meth can be taken orally, injected, snorted or smoked. The addictive drug often leads to insomnia, increased blood pressure, malnutrition, depression and anxiety.
SEE, NO GUN! – Drug Possession Defendant Christopher Jansen, on trial in Pontiac Michigan, said he had been searched without a warrant. The prosecutor said the officer didn’t need a warrant because a “bulge” in Christopher’s jacket could have been a gun. Nonsense, said Christopher, who happened to be wearing the same jacket that day in court. He handed it over so the judge could see is. The judge discovered a packet of cocaine in the pocket and laughed so hard he required a five minute recess to compose himself.BIG MOUTH – Dennis Newton was on trial for the armed robbery of a convenience store in a district court when he fired his lawyer. Assistant District Attorney Larry Jones said Newton, 47, was doing a fair job of defending himself until the store manager testified that Newton was the robber. Newton jumped up, accused the woman of lying, and then said, “I should have blown your (expletive) head off.”The defendant paused, then quickly added, “if I’d been the one that was there.” The jury took 20 minutes to convict Newton and recommend a 30-year sentence.
ALSO IN THE NEWSLETTER: A plan to exempt all peace officers from additional licensing when they perform off-duty private security work — Work done by the late Congressman Henry B. Gonzales to include volunteers in the Public Safety Officers Benefits Ace — How RLOAA accident medical expense insurance works — and more!