The value and effectiveness of the Reserve Corps have usually been defined in terms of hours worked. It has often been reported, for example, that the 700 reserve officers, including specialists, are equivalent to 100 full-time peace officers. This has certainly been given increased focus lately, with the city’s continuing budget concerns and the need for “boots on the ground.” Reserve officer numbers are now reported to the Police Commission as part of the Department’s overall strength.
But perhaps the greater value of the Reserve Corps is in the skills it adds to the Department.“Years ago,” one officer recalls, “I was at an in-service training class, and a seasoned veteran instructor commented on how reserve officers, typically older than the average recruit, brought a degree of life experience and knowledge that complemented the strength and professionalism of the Department.”
There is a wide range of skills that the Corps has contributed, ranging from law enforcement-related expertise to knowledge in other vital areas. In fact, the specific mission of the Corps’ specialist program has been to enable the Department to acquire important skills from, and relations with, the community that it services. But sworn reserve officers (levels I, II and III) have also contributed their unique skills, and we will describe examples of both in this article.
Gregory Martayan’s family has been in the United States since 1919, firmly planting their roots in the Los Angeles area in 1940. “I was raised by parents who believed that culture, tradition and service to the community were the priorities,” he says. As a specialist, he has provided the LAPD with an important understanding of the city’s Armenian and Middle Eastern communities. He refers to this as breaking down “the brick wall” to overcome “any number of issues, including cultural sensitivities and language barriers.”
He recalls being deployed to a protest in the Wilshire Area. “We received a call that a colleague from LAFD had been assaulted while trying to disperse a growing crowd causing fire code violations.” Within moments of officers arriving on scene, a suspect (unaware that Martayan was fluent in the language he was speaking) told his friends that he was going to his car to retrieve his gun. Martayan immediately informed the incident commander, and a situation that could have ended badly was safely resolved.
Specialist Martayan has assisted in a variety of Department operations, from protests to crime scenes to ongoing investigations. He has been deployed to several homicide investigations, within which he helped detectives piece together parts of the case while communicating with neighbors of the victims and potential witnesses. He met with victims’ family members and assisted in garnering support for their immediate needs.
A recent graduate of the Academy, Reserve Officer Omar Ricci (currently assigned to Wilshire Patrol) has been working with Counter-Terrorism/Criminal Intelligence Bureau’s Muslim Laison Group. Before joining the Corps, Officer Ricci had been working closely with the Department for a number of years as an active member of the Muslim community.
“The distinct way I’m helping is by bringing my two-plus decades of experience to help the LAPD better understand the Muslim community, and assisting the Department in building a partnership with the community in our mutual ongoing fight against terrorism.”
Reserve Officer John Lee is a good example of a reserve officer who has specialized in an area of law enforcement. As reported in the fall 2008 issue, Officer Lee had (by then) conducted well over 1,000 traffic-collision investigations in West Traffic, and his total career count is now substantially higher. He has traveled to Sacramento and elsewhere for advanced training courses on collision investigation. Today, the Department’s 4.37 (exchange of info) card, which all LAPD officers carry in their uniform pockets, was designed by Officer Lee. Recently, along with three full-time WTD officers, Lee inaugurated the first-ever collision-investigation citywide curriculum for the LAPD Cadet program. Officer Lee received an award from the California Office of Traffic Safety, helping the LAPD to win the statewide competition in what California OTSDirector Christopher Murphy called a “major achievement for the agency.”
Reserve Officer Martin Greenblatt, who retired as an attorney following a 40-year career in private practice, is currently working as a case-carrying property detective at Pacific. He investigates grand thefts, burglaries, elder abuse, embezzlement and other financial crimes. He interviews victims and witnesses, interrogates suspects, authors search warrants, presents them to judges for issuance and assembles and presents filing packages to the district attorney. He testifies at preliminaries and at trials. “For me, writing warrants and testifying, in particular, are a natural extension and use of the skills acquired and refined in my career as a lawyer.”He has successfully completed the full program offered by the POST-sponsored Institute for Criminal Investigation, and received a certificate declaring him a property crimes investigator. This certification, which is generally accepted by the California courts as qualification to testify as a subject matter expert, is a status held by only a small percentage of detectives. Officer Greenblatt was named Department Reserve of the Year in 2008.
Robert S. Sallin has been a specialist assigned to the Video Unit for about three years now. His primary responsibility has been to create two important annual public service campaigns:Gunfire Reduction and Fireworks Safety. He created and directed the radio and television spots featuring such celebrities as George Lopez, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. In recognition of this work, Sallin received a special commendation from Chief Bratton, just before his departure.
Ric and Randi Drasin joined the LAPD as specialists two years ago to work with kids who have drug and alcohol abuse problems. “Many of these kids come from a dysfunctional home life and suffer from self-esteem problems.” Ric Drasin is the former pro wrestler known as “The Equalizer” and now has his own Pro Wrestling School in Sherman Oaks. Randi runs a school enrichment program called Randi’s Fitness for Kids. “We help these kids get on the right track of nutrition and exercise, and a positive way to conduct their lives.”
Reserve officers Department-wide have been instrumental in helping to manage the LAPD Cadets (formerly known as the Explorers) and other Department youth programs. Specialist Rocko Friedkin of West Valley is just one example. He works 40 hours a month at Jeopardy, and has been active in the program for over 13 years. He says Reserve Corps members “have continually made themselves available to speak to community councils, service organizations and other groups about LAPD’s involvement with the community’s youth.”
The LAPD family lost a couple of members of the Corps this year. Specialist Gerry Nezu passed away a few months ago. His long-time friend and partner, Reserve Officer Steve Getz, say, “I worked with Gerry during the IBARS days from 1995 to 2000, and then from 2000to 2005 he and I partnered up at WTD. He was a great partner, very professional and a true friend.” The Corps also lost Specialist Max Kerstein, who was posthumously named Reserve Officer of the Year for Olympic Area and West Bureau. He developed a specialty in utilizing law enforcement databases that resulted in the capture of over 20,000 felons.
LAPD’s Chaplain Corps includes a dedicated cadre of specialists, who help the Department address the concerns of sworn and civilian employees and their families from a wide variety of faiths. The chaplains are there night and day, in effect responding to the needs of the first responders. There is Father Mike McCullough, whose Desert Refuge is a retreat for police officers and their families. Chaplains such as Rabbi Israel Hirsh have helped bridge relations between police and the community, fostering understanding and communication.
Father Frank Hicks is the pastor of the St. Basil Catholic Church in the Wilshire district. The church provides services for over 10,000families, with four different congregations. Yet, even with this responsibility, Father Hicks is there for the LAPD family on a moment’s notice. Father Spencer Kezios was at the hospital that tragic day in February 2008 when they brought in Officers Randy Simmons and James Veenstra. Father Kezios stayed with the families, helping Officer Veenstra in his fight for his life, and assisting the family of Officer Simmons, who died that day in the line of duty.
Chief of Chaplains Kenneth Crawford says,“These are just a few stories, and they must not diminish the work of so many others. They are the gems of the LAPD family.”
Editor’s note: We’d like to thank everyone who contributed to this article, and regret we could not include all the stories we received.