How to be a reserve police officer

The duties of a reserve police officer are as varied as the reasons people choose to serve

By Police1 Staff

First of all, before we talk about how to be a reserve police officer, let’s find out what that title means:

A reserve police officer (also known as an auxiliary officer) is either a volunteer or paid worker, depending on the circumstance and the department for which they work. They perform law enforcement duties in their community. Police departments, sheriff’s departments and state police departments all have reserve police officers.

Reserve police officers with the Fridley, Minnesota Police Department.
Reserve police officers with the Fridley, Minnesota Police Department. (City of Fridley, Minn.)

The duties of a reserve police officer

A reserve police officer’s requirements and duties vary significantly, depending on the venue and location of their service.

Some have full powers of operation similar to a regular police official, but in other instances, they have limited duties and authority.

In some departments, the reserve police are uniformed in the same way as regular law enforcement officers but don’t carry weapons or make arrests. Their duties may only include doing office work, community relations, traffic control and issuing warrants and subpoenas.

It’s common in beachside locations that have a huge increase in population in the summer months to hire a reserve police officer team on a seasonal basis to help with law enforcement. Also, reserve officers can serve at things such as state fairs, parades and other large events.

Often, a reserve police officer is a law enforcement trainee who’s required to perform a certain number of hours in this capacity in order to complete training requirements.

Sometimes, a reserve police officer is a retired police officer who wants to give back to the community on a part-time basis.

Other times, people who are thinking of a career in law enforcement use this as an opportunity to find out whether they are suited to the job. This way, they don’t have to invest as much training and educational time to a career they aren’t sure about. They do, however, have to participate in some police training in preparation to perform their duties as a reserve police officer.

The duties of a reserve police officer vary according to the individual department. If fully authorized to perform regular police duties, they have the following responsibilities:

  • Respond to car accidents, medical emergencies, crime scenes, suspicious activities, altercations and requests for law enforcement assistance.
  • Provide public assistance and encourage good relationships between the public and the police force.
  • Administer first aid to injured persons.
  • Perform interviews and takes written statements from crime victims, witnesses and suspects.
  • Prepare and submit written reports regarding all of the above.
  • Apprehend suspects and perform arrests and transportation to the required detention facility. Detaining suspects can involve car chases, pursuing suspects on foot and using physical force to subdue suspects, if necessary.
  • Enforce traffic laws, issues citations, direct traffic and assist disabled vehicles.
  • Investigate traffic accidents and gather evidence.
  • Respond to reports of child neglect and abuse and refer to the proper authorities.
  • Serve warrants, subpoenas, testifies in court, and councils with other law enforcement officials such as the District Attorney’s Office to provide assistance with case preparations.

In regard to police salaries, if a reserve police officer is paid, it is most often done on a per diem basis and doesn’t include perks such as health insurance or retirement benefits. There are, however, many benefits to becoming a reserve police officer, if only to make a positive contribution to one’s community.

This article, originally published May 2011, has been updated.

Next: Why police departments rely on reserve officers

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