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About reserve officers
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The recent passing of Ceres Reserve Police Officer Bob Panos prompted me to provide information about the Reserve Police Officer program. Many people are surprised to hear that "part-time" officers exist, so this is a good time to explain the facts about them.

Reserve police officers are a special class of peace officers as defined by California Penal Code Section 830.6. They have the same arrest authority, civil immunities and role as any full-time officer. The one difference is that those powers apply only when they are on-duty. Full-time officers have this authority 24 hours a day.

Prior to the 1990's, reserve police officers were quite prevalent throughout the state. Over the years since then, the training requirements became more demanding, such that many people who wished to serve as reserves could no longer do so while holding down their regular non-police jobs. In order to now function as a reserve police officer in a solo capacity, the individual has to complete the same number of academy training hours as their full-time counterparts. This had the net effect of drastically reducing their numbers which left local police departments, the smaller ones in particular, unable to provide the same level of protective services as before. Anyone wishing to become a fully certified police officer, whether as a reserve or full-time regular officer, must complete 24 weeks of academy training, followed by an extensive field training program. Few people can afford to take off ten months off from their regular employment to become a reserve officer, so the number of reserves is declining every year.

In Ceres, we now only have three reserve police officers - a drastic reduction from the 1980s, and unfortunately, there is no sign that the trend will reverse itself. But these three officers, while on duty, are virtually indistinguishable from our regular full-time officers. Their badges, uniforms and assignments are exactly the same as their counterparts who earn their living by being professional police officers. Two of the three aforementioned Ceres reserves are actually full-time firefighters who also like to provide some extra services to the community. In many agencies, the reserve officers are persons who retired from a law enforcement career, but who want stay active on a part-time basis.

Most reserve officers, especially those who function in solo capacities, receive a basic hourly salary. They do not receive any benefits such as retirement, health care, vacation or holiday time. In fact, it is not a particularly cost-effective enterprise, given the amount of time that has to be given in order to meet the certification requirements and followed by the ongoing training necessary the maintain peace officer status. The main reasons people serve as reserve officers are because they like to do a job that is meaningful, important, and it allows them to give back to the community.

Reserve police officers are subject to involuntary call-backs to duty in times of major emergencies - similar to that of being conscripted in the United States armed services. This means that vacation plans can be interrupted, and the employing agency can exercise more control over the individual reserve officer than most any other employer. Frankly, the kind of people attracted to these duties look forward to those times when their services become critical needs to the community, and they report to duty most willingly.

If a reserve police officer responds to your call for service, you most likely will not be able to tell one of them from their full-time counter parts. The solo reserve officer has the same training, experience and skill as any other professional police officer.

Being a reserve police officer represents a true calling - one that few people can rise to. We actively seek applicants for these positions but it is important for interested persons to understand the challenges of the position. On top of the selection process and training rigors, the job itself is certainly dangerous, which is one more reason that discourages people from pursing the position. In short, reserve police officers are a very special breed of people, who take pride in their communities and go far beyond what most citizens are willing to do for the public good. For these reasons, local police departments hold them in very high regard. The Los Angeles Police Department has a motto that really says it all: "To be a reserve is to be twice a citizen." I am grateful for these community-minded, dedicated people. Officer Bob Panos was one of the very best reserve officers I have known.