Berryville PD boosting number of reserves
BERRYVILLE -- The Berryville Police Department hopes to increase the size of its force 50 percent by 2013 -- without increasing the city payroll by a dime.
The savings are possible because the potential recruits are all volunteers. Police Chief Dave Muniz said seven men were currently training to become volunteer officers, known as "reserve" officers.
If they pass the training, he said, they should be sworn in by the end of the year and join the 11 certified and four reserve officers already serving the city.
The department has had a reserve program in place for more than a decade. State law allows the city to have a maximum of one reserve for every certified officer on the force.
The volunteers receive no compensation.
"We'll give 'em a gun belt, and uniform," Investigator Daniel Crawford said, "but they're not getting anything (else). They're coming in here on their days off, missing time with their families, and whatever else."
The reserve officers do not have to pass through as rigorous a training period as their certified counterparts: In order to be certified by the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training, officers must pass through a 12-week training program, followed by one year of probationary employment.
However, reserve officers are required by law to undergo a certain amount of training. They are trained in criminal law, firearms, and a host of other topics.
Crawford said the classes were like trying to drink water from a fire hose. He added that Berryville expected more of their reserve officers than many other agencies.
"We all know each other's families, and stuff like that," he said. "We're pretty tight. So, we generally go beyond in our reserve classes ... It's not just a technicality."
"We get pretty picky on who we swear in," he added.
The officers, once sworn in, will have to ride with a certified officer until the supervisor feels they are ready to be on their own.
Even then, reserves are required to be in constant radio contact with a supervising officer, and they have no police authority when off the clock.
Within these restraints, though, reserve officers can perform nearly the same functions as any other officer.
"They take calls, they do reports, they make arrests -- just like a full-time officer," Lt. Randy Haven said.
Reserves are required to work at least 16 hours each week. However, Crawford said some routinely worked more -- even putting in more hours than some salaried officers.
"We don't require them to do that," he said, "but some guys are just driven to do it."
Many reserve officers enter the program in the hope of one day transitioning into full-time law enforcement, Crawford said.
"A lot of them use the reserve program to see if they even like police work," Haven added, "because its a different kind of work than any of them have been exposed to in the past."
For some, the job proves more stressful than they had anticipated.
"Every body has their ideas of law enforcement work," Crawford said, "and there's a lot of stress and grief that goes with it that most people haven't planned for."
"The only other people that kill themselves more than cops are dentists," he added. "Apparently being a dentist sucks."
Crawford said police work was also very stressful for officers' families -- divorce rates among law enforcement are astronomical.
"That's something we stress on the new guys," Crawford said. However, he added, "Most of us that hang around can't really imagine doing anything else."
And those who do hang around usually stay.
In fact, Crawford said the majority of those on the force now began their careers as reserve officers, and that those officers are just as valuable and willing to serve in difficult times as all the rest.
"The majority of these cops here, if you called them at six o'clock Christmas morning and said, 'I need you right now,' they'll come. Nobody's gonna be happy about it, but you can bet your life they're gonna be here -- including the guys who aren't getting paid to do it."