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Back to Archives | Back to January 2012 Contents 

Budget and Staffing Shortages: Consider the Benefits and Cost Savings of Part-Time, Paid, Reserve Police Officers

By Ed Williams, Chief of Police (Retired), Roswell, Georgia, Police Department; Michael Crowe, Lieutenant, Roswell, Georgia, Police Department; and Bill Lowe, Officer, Roswell, Georgia, Police Department


Roswell Mayor Jere Wood and Chief Ed Williams
discuss the department’s reserve police officer program

olice chiefs across the United States and around the world are confronted with meeting department budget challenges while still ensuring officer safety and the ability to provide professional law enforcement services. A police chief’s budget is like a leaky bucket: Despite the best fiscal controls, money still leaks from numerous causes beyond the chief’s best control efforts, through court subpoenas, training, officers’ shifts extended because of call volume or the necessity to complete reports, specialized responses to incidents such as major crimes or special operations callouts, and special community events.

The city of Roswell, Georgia, Police Department faces these same challenges and threats to achieving its budgetary goals. The department’s senior managers met monthly to review the overtime budget and looked for solutions to stop the hemorrhage. An additional stressor the department faced came when several highly productive officers had submitted letters of resignation, citing personal reasons: raising children, returning to college, or seeking personal development opportunities. They did not want to quit the police department, but they were unable to balance their future personal interests while working as full-time police officers.

Roswell, Georgia, Police Department is a 136-sworn officer law enforcement agency protecting a population exceeding 90,000 citizens. Money magazine in 2010 ranked the city of Roswell as one of the top 100 (number 76) best small cities in the United States. The Roswell Police Department has accreditation from CALEA.
As a result of rising call volume and recruitment and retention issues, Roswell’s city council and mayor approved a part-time, paid, reserve police officer program. While many law enforcement agencies have reserve officers programs, Roswell program is unique in that the city pays its part-time reserve officers for their training and duty hours. Roswell police sought to recruit mandated and experienced officers desiring long-term relationships who would be paid for protecting and serving the city. Also, having a formal employer-employee relationship is an important element of Roswell’s program. Police leadership did not want its part-time reserve officers to have a strictly “volunteer” status with the department.


Reserve Police Officers: Filling Vital Roles

As suggestions went around the conference table, one proposal that kept appearing and sparked serious debate was part-time reserve (PTR) police officers. Initially, the proposal seems like a lot of effort for potentially little savings. As the topic was discussed and researched, the concept moved from an idea to a written concept. Eventually, senior management identified the following functions that reserve police officers could perform to support the department’s mission responsibilities:
  • City hall security detail
  • Police department lobby entrance staffing to assist visitors
  • Increased law enforcement presence during special events
  • Prisoners transport and guarding for court appearances, medical care, and interjurisdictional transports
  • Uniform patrol augmentation when staffing shortages occur as a result of long-term illnesses, injuries, workers’ compensation leave, vacations, training, and so on
  • Supplemental resource for section commanders when incidents or details develop
  • Resource for disaster incidents such as floods, which have regularly impacted Roswell

PTR police officers have reduced employment costs because part-time employees do not earn vacation or sick time, holiday pay does not apply, and health care and retirement benefits are not available. However, these officers are issued department equipment and are covered by workers’ compensation insurance for work-related medical incidents. The city of Roswell routinely hires part-time employees within other city departments to serve as firefighters, clerks, or parks and recreation staff. Consequently, procedures were already established within Roswell’s human resources department so no new internal procedures had to be developed for part-time, paid, reserve police officers.


Decisions Based on Departmental Values Statement

As the practical details of a PTR police officer program were reviewed, Roswell police leaders used the department’s values statement to keep the conversations focused on workable solutions. The statement says, “As officers of the Roswell Police Department, we show, in our words and actions, responsibility to and respect for all people and the law. We act at all times with honesty, courage, honor, and compassion. Working as a team, we strive to achieve common goals by being flexible, creative, and willing to take risks.”1 Part of the department’s culture is to use the values statement to guide outcomes.


PTR Officer Hiring Process

As the proposal process moved forward, the command staff discussion moved logically to a conversation on which standards would be required of people interested in becoming Roswell PTR officers. This question was answered in unison and with total consensus: PTR officers must meet all of the same standards as applicants seeking full-time police officer positions. There was agreement that there would be one standard for all officers vested with lawful authority as sworn officers for the Roswell Police Department. Furthermore, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) requires the same standards for officers, so Roswell’s own employment standards were reaffirmed.

Given that budgetary limitations were a factor, the policy was drafted so that applicants must already have obtained their Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council certifications. The return for Roswell was that the department was not paying for the training or for officer salaries while they attended the months of training. Furthermore, allowing only certified peace officers to apply ensured the experience level of candidates would be greater. Finally, the policy stated that PTR officers could not be employed full-time by another law enforcement agency. This was written to minimize conflicts between officers’ fulltime law enforcement employers and the Roswell department.

The policy recognized that PTR police officers would likely be employed full-time at a separate organization. The policy stated that “this primary employment must not be incompatible with their service as a PTR police officer.”2 Additionally, the department realizes each officer’s full-time employment schedule would take priority over service as a Roswell PTR police officer.

A factor affecting the Roswell Police Department is that the agency is selective regarding who is offered employment as a sworn peace officer. Candidates with marginal personal and professional backgrounds, patterns of immature conduct, or who project poor images are screened out during the process so that only the strongest candidates advance to interviews with the police chief. During this in-depth interview, the police chief evaluates candidates for the purpose of extending a conditional offer of employment letter whereby the final medical, personality, and lie detection assessments are authorized. Only when the results of these assessments are completed does the police chief extend the final employment offer.

Reserve Police Officer Keith Powell was a former police officer for five years with another law enforcement agency. Keith maintained his Georgia POST certification and is a full-time firefighter with an agency adjacent to the city of Roswell.
Jennifer Bennett, pictured here with her three-year-old Brooklynn, was a full-time police officer for four years. When Jennifer became a mom, she requested that her employment status change to reserve PTR police officer. Eight months later, Jennifer returned as a full-time police officer and field training officer.

When the Training Begins

Once hired, PTR officers must complete a mandatory department mini-academy skills refresher prior to being sworn by the municipal judge. This training provides the department’s training lieutenant with 80 hours of observation and interaction with the newly hired employee. It’s an additional element of supervision and review beyond the application process and hiring interviews. Experiencing firsthand how a person responds to 80 hours of defensive tactics, simulated traffic stops, building clearance evolutions, and force-on-force engagements offers invaluable insights in a person’s true character. Gaining the endorsement of the department’s training lieutenant is required for the employee’s advancement to the Field Training Officer (FTO) phase.


FTO, Equipment, Chain of Command, and Professionalism

By the time the PTR officer has completed the application process, been hired, and completed the 80-hour mini-academy skills course that is worked into the officer’s full-time employment, considerable time will likely have passed. Many PTR officers are able to commit just 12 to 15 hours each week, so patience is required by all involved. The next step is entering the FTO phase.

The department’s FTO coordinator schedules the reserve officer to complete this critical orientation step. The process is stringent as there is no distinction among the duties that any Roswell police officer can fill. Roswell understands that the time required to complete FTO will be extended given that PTR officers’ availability is limited. Although, FTO takes time, it offers the benefits of two-officer patrol vehicles increasing officer safety and improving response times. In many cases, a single two-officer car can be dispatched to an incident instead of having two single officer cars respond.

PTR police officers have access to the same uniform and equipment allocation as other officers. Firearms, body armor, portable radio, laptop computer, and patrol vehicles are all afforded to these officers. One restriction is that PTR police are not eligible to participate in the department’s assigned vehicle program.

Given the various time and shift availability that PTR police officers might be able to offer Roswell, administrative control was critical to ensure a single chain-of-command to address administrative, personnel, training, staffing, and equipment issues. The objectives were to ensure that PTR officers had a single point of contact and supervisor to resolve issues. Coauthor Lieutenant Michael Crowe serves as the PTR Police Officer Program supervisor, in addition to his other command duties. Lieutenant Crowe also completes annual performance evaluations of PTR officers, which mirror the ones conducted on regular, full-time officers.

PTR police officers are “required to conduct themselves in a professional manner governed by city ordinances, state laws, written directives, rules and regulations, and any other requirements set by the Chief of Police.”3 Disciplinary matters are investigated in the same manner as those involving other police department personnel. Sanctions for violations may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of part-time employment.


Conclusions

The authors contend that the Roswell, Georgia, Police Department’s part-time, paid, reserve police officer program works for their particular agency. Reserve officers provide invaluable staffing that enhances officer safety and helps the department achieve its community public safety missions. The costs associated with hiring and training reserve officers are quickly recouped as the reserve officers perform their assigned patrols and details.

A ready reserve of certified officers is essential to deal with staffing shortages, protect city hall, work at special community events, and transport and guard prisoners. The authors advocate that the system in Roswell is easily adoptable by other law enforcement agencies in these challenging economic times. ■

Notes:
1Roswell Police Department, “Policy Manual” (internal document, revised September 12, 2011), 2.
2Ibid, 306.
3Ibid.

Ed Williams retired in 2011 after serving as police chief of the Roswell, Georgia, Police Department for 17 years. He has more than 36 years of law enforcement experience and has been the police chief of three agencies. Chief Williams has a master of science degree in public administration and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Section 157.
Michael Crowe is a lieutenant with the Roswell, Georgia, Police Department, where he has worked for 30 years. Lieutenant Crowe is the day watch commander and has additional responsibilities, including his work as the PTR Police Officer Program supervisor.
Bill Lowe is a part-time reserve police officer for the Roswell, Georgia, Police Department. His full-time career is fire department battalion chief and tactical medic, where he has 31 years of service. Officer Lowe has doctoral degrees in human resource management and marketing management.


Please cite as:

Ed Williams, Michael Crowe, and Bill Lowe, "Budget and Staffing Shortages: Consider the Benefits and Cost Savings of Part-Time, Paid, Reserve Police Officers," The Police Chief 79 (January 2012): 44–45.

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From The Police Chief, vol. 79, no. 1, January 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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