November 27, 2014

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Auxiliary officers’ duties vary across nation

The duties of auxiliary officers, also known as reserve police officers, vary around the nation.

With some 4,500 officers, the New York City Police Department has the largest auxiliary force in the nation, according to its website. The NYPD auxiliaries don’t carry guns and have no powers of arrest other than those of a private citizen. The Los Angeles Police Department has about 650 reserve police officers, according to its website. Some carry guns and perform the same duties as regular officers they ride with.

In Louisiana and Oklahoma, auxiliaries who receive extra training are part of SWAT teams, according to Brooke Webster, president of the Reserve Police Officers Association, a New York-based nonprofit group. The association donates money to auxiliaries injured or killed in the line of duty. Last week it donated $150 and safety equipment to the North Ridgeville Police Department on behalf of auxiliary Cpl. Erik Pettet, who suffered minor injuries when struck by a car while directing traffic on June 1.

Webster said in an email that “right to work” states have fewer problems with auxiliaries than traditionally pro-union states such as Ohio. He said police unions in pro-union states have sometimes opposed having auxiliaries work at parades or special events because it reduces overtime pay for regular officers.

“They need to recognize that in today’s fiscal realities, career officers cannot be assigned to every civic event,” Webster said. “That said, our organization does not look for volunteer officers to supplant career police officers, but to supplement them.”

Jay McDonald, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police president, said his union filed a grievance several years ago when the U.S. Marshals office in Richland County when the Richland County Sheriff’s Office used auxiliaries on a drug task force after laying off deputies. But McDonald, a Marion police officer, said the grievance was an exception, not the rule in the relationship between auxiliary and regular officers in Ohio.

McDonald was recently a speaker at the annual awards ceremony for Lorain Police Department auxiliaries and said regular officers appreciate auxiliaries.

“But when financial times are bad, it’s a mistake to think volunteers can take the place of sworn officers,” he said. “As long as they’re there to assist, we are 100 percent behind them.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

For more on auxiliary officers: Doing tough work, for free: Auxiliary officers help on scene, on streets