One of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country is the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD, formerly known as LASO, or Los Angeles Sheriff's Office). Larger, the other major law enforcement agency in the county is the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). I am proud to have had the privilege to serve with both. Commentary follows.
In the summer of 1972, I became a cadet in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Academy, then located at Biscailuz Center, in East LA. For about nine months, consisting of one 12 hour day and one five hour day of classroom work per week, I was trained, at one of the best law enforcement academies in the world. Immediately after graduation in April 1973, I began working patrol out of Lennox Station, one of 21 substations that the sheriff then had, located just east of Los Angeles International Airport. One-on-one training continued in the field for nearly another year before I was turned loose. The reserves' role back then was the same as that of full time deputies. Today, due to unionization (my feeling) of many law enforcement agencies and the heavy, protective lobbying resulting, the laws have changed so that reserves are no longer trained to the full police powers as that of full time officers and the reserve programs have become very weak as a result. At one time, we had over 400 fully trained and available reserve deputies, ready to be called up for any emergency. Back then, Lennox alone could boast having over 40. To maintain our readiness, we were required to work a minimum of two shifts per month, be available on an 'on call' basis for one more shift, plus attend one training session per month. Additional and regular firearms qualification was extra but mandated. To maintain my skills and to advance to sergeant, I worked almost every Saturday p.m. Shift, plus did the required training and any extra whenever it was available. Common sense rules applied as far as keeping our relationship with the regulars smooth and productive. We would never fill a regular's slot if a regular could be found to fill it. Back when law enforcement officers could go out on strike, our deputies did, but we did not work additional hours in their place but stayed out in support of them. Whether or not we agreed with the strike, having the support of the regulars was absolutely crucial to our ability to maintain our skills and successfully be deployed as a cohesive team when needed. This formula worked spectacularly as they ensured that we remained trained to a high level and therefore we were there to fill in - trade a slot - when a regular wanted to take an unscheduled day off. In 1982, I reached the minimum required criteria for retirement, so I retired, but in 1984. This was not something I wanted to do, but was done due to my regular job requirements which took me out of the country for an extended period. When I retired, it was as a Level I Reserve (full Peace Officer Status), so I still carry a sheriff's badge and ID, simply marked as retired. In California, now we have levels which describe the training and certification of reserves. Level I is, as mentioned, close to full peace officer standing, Level II requires the supervision of a regular in order to do any official act, and Level III might as well be untrained. Level III is heavily supervised and marginally trained. Most academies graduate Level II cadets these days.
In 1995 I learned that LAPD needed help with policing computer related crime. Since I am a specialist in many computer fields and missed working in law enforcement, I joined their department as a specialist reserve.
As big departments go, I found the treatment received by me from LASD to be far superior to that offered by LAPD. LAPD does not recognize my Level I status (although it is clearly defined by state law) nor even my training from LASD. The group I work with at LAPD is all that holds me with them, as those guys are just simply the finest among a great police department. But as far as their treatment of reserves goes, LAPD leaves much to be desired. To be fair, near as I can tell, so does LASD today. It is highly doubtful any major department trains their reserves sufficiently to qualify them for Level I status any more. If people want a pool of trained reserve officers available for contingencies, the laws must be changed to encourage chiefs and sheriffs to build strong reserve forces and motivate the troops by treating them like they are doing a welcome and needed service. It's not cheap to maintain a large reserve force, but it is a minute fraction of that required to keep an equivalent force of regulars. [OPINION] What appears to scare the politicians is the fact that regular officers are sometimes in trouble, which frequently costs the local governments millions in legal fees, so they figure that part time officers would be more likely to get into trouble. Unlikely. Unlikely because the reserve is exposed to the opportunity to "get in over his head" less frequently and, most importantly, the reserve is more often personally civilly liable for violations than is their employer. Reserves have their own insurance - if they think they need it. An awesome plus to having a strong reserve force is the simple fact that working among the general population most of the time, and working as a cop part time, gives one a dual insight. This has been terrifically useful in the field because there is no "us vs. them" mentality. So, the dollars saved and the security gained from having a large active reserve force clearly outweighs any perceived disadvantages.
If there is a point to this, it is for the reader to support their local law enforcement reserve functions. Both politically and financially, if you don't have the time or inclination to actually join yourself. Get involved! Most folks don't consider it, but cops need help too, and the community is the source from which they get it. When the local PD or Sheriff's Department asks for more funding, question them on how they are using their reserve resources. If they are not utilizing them well, or have none, deny them the funds. Simple as that. Since 9-11 the rules should have changed, but legally, they have not. Our regular officers need more in debth back-up now than since WW-II.