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Technical reserve program: community volunteers in action.

In these tough economic times, police managers often question how they can maintain a high level of public service with less funding. Obviously, making use of all available resources can be advantageous for a department. Sometimes, however, police administrators overlook an excellent source of talent--the community. In fact, by using citizens in a technical reserve program, police departments gain valuable expertise with minimal cost.

The Technical Reserve Program

Several southern California law enforcement agencies have developed successful technical reserve programs. For example, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department uses technical reserves in its Motion Picture Unit. Composed of over 100 members from the television and film industries, the unit produces high quality training films, assists with covert video taping, and films special events. In Los Alamitos, California, the police department uses technical reserves as evidence technicians. And, the Inglewood, California, Police Department has developed its own technical reserve program, successfully using volunteers in a variety of positions.

The Inglewood Program

The Inglewood Police Department (IPD) implemented its technical reserve program on January 1, 1992. IPD's program consists of two types of specialists: Technical reserves and technical reserve associates.

Both reserves and associates donate their time and expertise in an advisory or technical work capacity. They have no enforcement authority and do not carry firearms. They do not wear uniforms, although the nature of their work may require their wearing coveralls or other clothing designed for utility or identification.

Technical reserves possess a skill or talent that the IPD needs frequently, such as computer programming or foreign language ability. They work for the department regularly and must donate at least 100 hours of service a year or risk being dropped from the program. This helps to ensure that Inglewood's volunteers are truly committed to the program--and they are. Most technical reserves work more than the required 100 hours a year.

Technical reserve associates have expertise in an area that the department uses only during an emergency or unusual event. Currently, the IPD has more than 20 reserve associates, all functioning as amateur radio operators, who could be used during a natural disaster to broadcast emergency instructions to the public. Reserve associates might also serve on search and rescue teams, where paramedics, divers, and pilots may be needed, depending on the type of search. Pilots may also work on fugitive apprehension squads or aerial surveillance groups.

Selection Procedures

Technical reserves must complete a detailed application and pass an interview and background investigation. They must have education, training, and/or work experience commensurate with the requirements of the position for which they apply. Once approved by the chief, technical reserves report to the supervisor of the unit to which they have been assigned. They ultimately answer to the chief via the commanding officer of the Office of Administrative Services.

Legal Considerations

A thorough selection process is particularly important from a legal standpoint. The Inglewood Police Department accepts liability for the actions of its volunteers, as well as responsibility for their health and safety. Therefore, the department attempts to select those candidates who would best serve the interests of the department without creating undue risk of liability.

Specialist Areas

Reserves serve the department in various ways. They may function as:

* Computer specialists, working in such areas as software documentation, software training, data entry, system design and evaluation, programming, and systems maintenance and repair

* Motion picture specialists, assisting the Training Unit in producing instructional tapes, filming special events, and videotaping surveillance operations

* Translators, especially persons fluent in Spanish, Korean, and sign language

* Gunsmiths, repairing and/or refinishing departmental weapons

* Graphic artists, preparing freehand and computer-generated graphics and illustrations for the community affairs division and other units as needed

* Radio repair specialists, installing, maintaining, and repairing radio equipment in conjunction with the city radio shop

* Amateur radio operators who, as technical reserve associates, are used only during disasters or unusual events.

Departments can add specialists to their programs as the need arises. For example, in the future, the IPD may recruit volunteer specialists with expertise in marketing, forensics, photography, and chemistry.

Conclusion

The IPD understands that the public represents a tremendous source of talent. Technical reserves recruited from the community donate invaluable expertise that the department could not afford otherwise.

Budget cuts do not have to mean the end of comprehensive policing efforts by departments. Police administrators who recognize the benefit of using volunteers can provide outstanding service to the community while holding the line on costs.

Chief Brown, formerly a lieutenant with the Inglewood, California, Police Department, currently heads the Moscow, Idaho, Police Department.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Federal Bureau of Investigation
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Brown, William F., Jr.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:759
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