VLEOA can help reserve officer training.
Training for Armed Reserves and Auxiliaries
Jim Weiss and Mickey Davis
In these harsh economic times, law enforcement agencies are being confronted with budget cutbacks. Police chiefs and sheriffs have to make do with less equipment and training, and often fewer police officers, troopers, or deputies. However, training, equipment and special units can be effective. This includes reserve and auxiliary policing programs.
Street police officers’ skills are perishable. Proficiency comes with practice and regular reinforcement. Coming home alive at the end of a shift often depends on solid tactical skills in high-profile areas such as pursuit driving and use of deadly force. Many career law enforcement officers will attest that they are receiving less training in these vital areas than ever before.
Too often, volunteers such as reserves and auxiliaries, are getting no training at all due to the economy. Different law enforcement agencies are addressing the training of armed reserve and auxiliary forces in different ways.
Clearwater, Fla. Police
Like law enforcement agencies everywhere, Clearwater Police Department is making do with less. As part of the cutbacks, attrition has reduced the number of regular police officers from over 250 to 232. Clearwater PD has a reserve force of six officers who are armed and state certified; all but one are retired Clearwater police officers.
According to Chief of Police Anthony Holloway, the department’s police reserve officers receive the same mandated training as their regular police officers; they do not deviate in this regard. This training includes certification in use of force and firearms, the same as received by the regular police officers.
Reserve police officers are required to perform 16 hours of duty every month. They either ride with a regular police officer or by themselves, if a shift is short on manpower. Anything new, such as updated TASER training, is in addition to that 16 hours of duty requirement.
The city pays for reserve police officer training, but only for that which is required for state certification. This training does not include any special courses or schools. For example, the department does not send reserve officers to, or pay for, such courses as sex crime investigations.
Hillsborough County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is a large agency with 1,200 full-time law enforcement and detention deputies. According to Master Deputy William Prickett, funding for the HCSO Reserve Program is included in that agency’s annual budget. Reserve deputy training is paid out of their Training Division budget, and some advance training classes are grant funded. Reserve deputies receive the same training as regular deputies, including annual in-service, as well as advanced, training classes.
There are three levels of reserve deputies. HSCO has 52 Reserve Level 1 deputies, 114 Reserve Level 2 deputies, and 15 Reserve Level 3 deputies. Reserve 1 deputies are mostly retired, full-time deputies who stay on in a reserve capacity upon retiring and are fully certified. Reserve 2 deputies are Auxiliary Law Enforcement Certified through Hillsborough Community College and are required to work in conjunction with a full-time deputy. Reserve 3 deputies are fully certified county employees who work for the Fire Marshal, School Board Security, or Public Transportation Commission, agencies that require law enforcement authority to perform job duties.
The agency feels the hours these reserves volunteer back to the community outweigh the cost of their equipment and training. Reserve Level 1 and 2 deputies are required to donate a minimum of 20 hours a month with no maximum limit. Most donate hundreds of hours each month. Law enforcement, detention deputies, and armed reserves are State of Florida Certified.
Florida Highway Patrol Auxiliary
There are 1,785 full-time members of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and 325 auxiliary (reserve) troopers. Like the reserve deputies and police officers of other agencies, they are armed. Being called auxiliaries is a matter of semantics; their roles are basically the same as armed reserves in other agencies.
Auxiliary duties include patrolling the streets and highways of the state. They may be used in details such as vehicle equipment and license checkpoints, act as a second trooper riding with a full-time trooper, and operate the Florida Highway Patrol Breath Alcohol Testing Unit. Certain specially certified auxiliary troopers may patrol on their own. FHP auxiliaries are volunteers and, like other reserve officers, are not paid for their time on duty.
As with other law enforcement reserve programs, if a reserve officer puts in for training, it is always state certification training, and does not include special schools. In the case of FHP auxiliaries, even though they are not paid for off-duty details, money from these details goes into the Florida Highway Patrol Auxiliary Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation, which, in turn, provides funding for auxiliary trooper training, equipment, and uniforms.
Additional training is available through the Volunteer Law Enforcement Officer Alliance (VLEOA). If reserve law enforcement officers want to have training in addition to what is state mandated, they may face a formidable challenge. This is where the VLEOA steps in. This is an international organization formed by a group of volunteer officers with the goal of supporting volunteer law enforcement reserves and auxiliaries.
VLEOA offers volunteer law enforcement individuals the training they do not often receive locally. Emphasis is not on the same topics reserve law enforcement officers are normally taught such as diversity, CPR, and firearms qualification, but rather emphasis is placed upon officer safety.
The mission of VLEOA is 1) promote awareness of the role of the volunteer officer in providing additional safety for the citizens of their communities; 2) provide expertise to assist in the formation, expansion, and training of state, county, and city volunteer law enforcement units; 3) provide education, training, and resources for volunteer law enforcement organizations; 4) promote the interests of volunteer law enforcement organizations at the national and international level; and 5) gather information from and disseminate it to volunteer law enforcement organizations.
In these difficult economic times, VLEOA stands ready to offer assistance in starting, revitalizing, and retaining reserve programs, and giving hands-on, real-world, current training that is not lecture-based. In promoting and sharing concepts and ideas with other jurisdictions and countries, VLEOA has likely tried and addressed many subjects, and discovered what works and what doesn’t.
VLEOA is a nonprofit organization that has many concerns about reserve officers, including the fact the majority of them in the U.S. have to buy their own equipment, and thousands do not have ballistic vests. An endowment for volunteer officers who were victims of off-duty death is being addressed. They have the support of some law enforcement vendors and businesses, but their goal is to receive the support of large corporate organizations.
A Closer Look
The organization makes training available through their VLEOA Reserve Training Conferences. One such conference was recently held in Florida, hosted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The HCSO reserve deputies program is considered one of the best by members of VLEOA. The sheriff’s office’s training facilities, shoot house, driving pad, and ranges were used for the conference. HCSO trainers were also involved, in addition to outside trainers. The HCSO trainers so believed in this program for reserve officers that they volunteered their time.
VLEOA auxiliary and reserve deputies, troopers, and police officers from various law enforcement agencies in the U.S. attended, as well as those from Canada and the Cayman Islands. The largest contingent consisted of FHP auxiliaries.
Day One was a mix of classroom subjects and hands-on, conducted on a rotation basis in which the attendees were put into groups and rotated to the training areas in order to keep the classes small and workable. This also allowed for more individual attention from the instructors. Topics included “Off Duty Survival & Concealed Carry,” “Crime Scene Investigation for Patrol Officers,” “Gang Intelligence and Recognition,” “Today’s Patrol Car: A Mobile Office or a Moving Death Trap?” “Hands-on Handcuffing,” “Is Your Patrol Car Going to Kill You?” and a ride along with local law enforcement agencies.
A private law enforcement company, Emerald Shield Tactical Concepts, conducted the “Off Duty Survival & Concealed Carry” classes. This company is led by two SWAT team members / trainers who are also full-time law enforcement—one from the Clearwater Police Department and the other from the Pinellas County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office.
The off-duty use of a firearm will be measured and weighed by the chief or sheriff, and the fact that an officer or reserve officer thinks that he/she has acted righteously just might be an inaccurate assumption. It’s the administrator’s decision as to whether or not they will cover the off-duty officer. If, as an off-duty officer or reservist, the individual is shot or hurt while attempting to affect an off-duty arrest or quell the efforts of an armed bad guy or active shooter, the only recourse might be to file a claim with Workers Compensation.
Considerations and tactical advantages for reserves that were taught in the class included taking action, past cases, situational awareness, identifying themselves as police officers loud and often, spotting the hidden handgun, the training of family members, and taking a plan of action. It was stressed that law enforcement officers have been programmed over their careers to intervene, but in most cases it is just better to be a good witness than to take action.
Students were also taught how to avoid being involved in off-duty encounters, and how to take action to protect themselves and family members. They were given the statistics of officers killed while off duty, and reminded that while one bullet can save lives and take out a bad guy, 25–30 percent of brutality charges are off-duty encounters.
“Gang Intelligence and Recognition” was conducted by nationally known authority, Detective Mac Wilder of the HCSO. Briefly, some gang eye openers included the fact it is not illegal to be a gang member and there are more gang members in the U.S. than there are law enforcement officers—800,000 law enforcement officers vs. 1 million documented gang members. Gangs are merging with each other, and gang members video and record everything as far as encounters with the police are concerned. Kids are now being born into gangs, with the Latin Kings among the most violent.
The fastest growing group of gang members is 14- to 15-year-olds and white females, and gang members come from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Gang members can also be members of the military, NBA or NFL, and officers should be aware of gang signs, slang, tattoos and symbols. If a person thinks of himself as a gang member, officers should treat him/her as such.
Day Two was held at the HCSO’s Walter C. Heinrich Practical Training Site. Training included force-on-force with Simunitionâ, patrol car skills and pursuit techniques, building clearance and searches, discretionary shooting, high-hazard traffic stops and encounters, and a ride-along with local law enforcement agencies.
According to VLEOA president and FHP Auxiliary Lt. Col. (retired) David Rayburn, 15 years ago it was unlikely that a bad guy would jump out of a car with an AK47, but now it’s an all too often occurrence. Today there is an increased need for tactical awareness and countering the actions taken by bad guys. With the support of the HCSO, the reserve officers, deputies, troopers, and agents at the conference demonstrated the will to effectively train and do what must be done.
Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, Ohio, Police Department and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER. Mickey Davis is a California-based writer and author.