Police hope to revive reserves
The Haines Borough Police Department is seeking applicants for the reactivation of its volunteer reserve police officer program.
Reserve officers accompany department officers and help with arrests, traffic enforcement and investigations, crowd and traffic control at events, and emergencies.
"There has, in the past, been a reserve program, and it’s actually set in borough code to have a reserve program," said chief Gary Lowe. "It’s something that I wanted to do and had tried to do two years ago, but at the time, there wasn’t interest for it."
Borough code states reserve officers "shall have all powers vested in the regular policemen and shall assist the chief," and volunteers also will be provided workers’ compensation insurance.
Applications are available at http://www.hainesborough.us. The deadline is 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24.
Lowe aims to begin reserve officer training in Haines this spring, with sufficient interest. The officers will handle firearms and study ethical and legal issues, such as confidentiality.
"I would guess it’s probably at least an 80-hour training, and that would be spread over, probably, several weekends," Lowe said.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, be a resident and have no felony convictions.
"I think volunteers in any sort of police work are great for us, because the more eyes that we have out there, the better off we are," Lowe said. "A lot of times, we have officers who are out there, working by themselves, and if we can have a reserve officer that’s working side by side with them, it’s an extra, added bit of security for the officers. It also gives us a force to draw on for special events."
He said the borough could have up to eight reserve officers.
"One or two is not really going to help us," Lowe said. "If we’re going to be giving some extensive training, to put that time in for one or two people is kind of counterproductive. If we can do it for four or five, certainly, that would be a better fit for us."
The department currently has five sworn police officers, including Lowe.
"We’re not going to have an occasion where a reserve officer is going to be handling a call on his own," he said. "He or she will be assigned with a sworn officer and will be there as an assistant to the officer."
Lowe said reserve officers might serve about four hours a week, following their training.
"I’m anticipating them wanting to come in at times when it’s busier out there, and, of course, that’s when we need them the most, and that’s when they’re going to get the most enjoyment out of putting the time in."
Lowe said a few people in recent months have expressed interest in becoming reserve officers, so he moved forward with an attempt to reactivate the program that has been on hold since before his hire in June 2008.
Former police chief Greg Goodman, who served in the department 17 years, said participation peaked at about four reserve officers during his tenure.
"It was an opportunity for members of the public to get a taste of police work to see if they were interested in maybe becoming a police officer," Goodman said. "It also gave the police department an opportunity to show the public what it was we did, and how we did it, in a way, maybe, that they would better understand."
He said some reserve officers were surprised by the department’s workload, especially when it came to paperwork. "It’s not just as simple as getting in a car and writing a parking ticket; there’s a lot more to it than that," Goodman said.
He said recruiting more volunteers was difficult, but noted Bill Stacy stayed with the program throughout his entire run as chief.
Stacy is a retired mental health director who started as a special commissioned police officer in the 1980s and then joined the department’s reserve program.
"We had a very high alcohol and drug problem here in Haines, so I wanted to do public service and try to be of help with that," Stacy said.
He attended training at a Sitka police academy, and Stacy said his efforts focused on prevention. He said his most dangerous task was backing up officers when they faced armed suspects.
Stacy said he plans to continue as a reserve officer. He said his role builds camaraderie with other officers and the community.
"Several of the people we had did go on to become police officers," Stacy said. "I think mine had to do with my age; I was older and already had a profession, so that never was my goal."