By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Law enforcement officers who either retire or have a career change have an important decision to make – whether or not to continue to serve as a reserve law enforcement officer. Also, those who are interested in serving as a police officer on a limited basis can also pursue reserve officer opportunities by successfully graduating from the police academy, which offers college credit that can be applied toward a degree.
After seven years of full-time police work, I made the decision to pursue a career in higher education. I had earned my state police certification by graduating from the police academy and had several years’ experience in policing. In researching reserve officer opportunities. I found that by becoming a reserve officer, my state certification would not expire, and I could easily transition back to full-time policing if I wished.
Benefits of Serving as a Reserve Officer
Different agencies around the country offer different reserve opportunities. While most reserve officer positions are unpaid, some do offer some remuneration. Reserve officers typically receive the same annual in-service currency training as full-time police officers and since reserve officers are state certified, they have arrest powers. This training is commonly referred in policing as annual block training. This training is required for state certification purposes.
Police agencies typically issue equipment to their reserve officers and some offer the opportunity to work police details. That involves signing out a police vehicle and working an off-duty detail at the same hourly rate as full-time police officers. Some agencies even give reserve officers paid court time, special assignments, service awards, and promotion opportunities with the reserve program. While they vary by agency, reserve officers typically volunteer some of their free time to answer calls for service, make prisoner transports, assist with training, and perform other administrative functions.
The Benefit of Reserve Officers to Their Agency
Since reserve officers typically have a separate full-time job and often have prior law enforcement experience, they bring a variety of skills and experiences to the agency. Agencies can use reserve officers to respond to natural disasters and special events, and work during periods of increased crime such as during the holiday season. Reserve officers can also assist with bookings, fingerprinting, traffic control, and securing crime scenes.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many agencies are experiencing staffing shortages. Having a pool of reserve officers during such a crisis can be beneficial in meeting staffing needs. There is little distinction between reserve officers and full-time police officers in the public’s perception. That underscores the importance of providing reserve officers with the proper training to ensure they remain proficient in agency policies, tactics, and their communication skills.
Reserve officer programs offer distinct benefits to both the volunteers and the law enforcement agencies. As a professor in the field of criminal justice, I have found my experience as a reserve law enforcement officer to be very helpful. For example, I can bring current real-world experiences in policing to the classroom because I remain up-to-date in the field instead of relying on my past experiences. Being a reserve officer is an excellent form of community service, which I have found very rewarding. Since reserve programs can vary greatly by agency, if you are interested, research reserve programs to find the ones that offer you the most opportunities to serve.