At least 3,000 unlicensed civilians are working as paid reserve police officers in Michigan with little or no controls in place, The Detroit Free Press reports.
The newspaper reported its investigation showed unregulated, armed civilians are policing communities and even assisting real officers while carrying weapons.
This lack of oversight continues despite numerous incidents of questionable — even illegal — conduct by reserve officers in recent years, the Free Press report- ed Oct. 24.
These aspiring law enforcement representatives are governed without any state-established training; have inconsistent or no standards for screening of new hires; and perform required protocol where monitoring has not yet been established to structure their behavior.
The investigation is believed to be the first accounting for this group of officers anywhere. The newspaper said it obtained the information legally in 2017, a year after the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) was granted the authority to license and train officers. The study revealed that the agency has no immediate plans to take on administrative responsibilities.
The potential danger is illustrated by Dave Harvey, former executive director of MCOLES.
“You have a person carrying a gun who can take someone’s life in the right circumstances, someone who has a badge and authority, who can take away their personal freedoms against the Constitution,” Harvey told the newspaper.
“That’s a lot of power, just as much as a doctor has when they have a scalpel leaning over you. You wouldn’t have an untrained person opening your gut.”
This raises issues such as budget reductions and more pressing objectives, said the new executive director of MCOLES, Tim Bourgeois. “We just simply haven’t had time to get to it yet,” he said.
Many reserves do contribute to the safeguarding of their communities and enjoy helping with minimal responsibilities, the story noted. Examples include traffic control, crowd patrol and sharing a beat with a real officer.
The story pointed to two incidents as examples of problems: Jarvis Daniel, who completed a reserve training program in Highland Park, in May 2014, and John Raterink, a reserve officer with Barry Township and a special deputy with the Barry County Sheriff’s posse.
Daniel was a convicted felon and still on parole for a 2003 home invasion when he became a reserve officer. Raterink was hired despite confirmed ties to a reputed White supremasist hate group as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Mistakes like these can- not be measured nationally, the newspaper said. The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards & Training surveyed states about their regulations of reserve officers. Only 24 agencies responded. Of the 24, more than half reported state mandated training standards for reserve officers.
California has three levels of state-regulated reserve officers. They require training hours ranging from 144 to 670 (the same as an officer), depending on their responsibilities.
The importance of public trust was stressed by Tim Bunting, deputy director for the Nevada Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. “(A reserve peace officer is) still wearing a uniform representing that agency. In a lot of people’s eyes, they see a reserve, they see a peace officer. They don’t differentiate.”
Leelanau County (Mich.) Sheriff Michael Borkovich does not allow reserves on the streets. “Just because you have a badge, doesn’t mean you understand law enforcement. This is not a hobby.”