On September 15, the heavy rain came early in the morning. KABC-TV reported: “In downtown Los Angeles, 2.39 inches of rain fell, breaking the previous record of 0.03 inches set in 1968…. The large amount of rainfall received in downtown Los Angeles made Tuesday the second-wettest day in September since 1877.” It was a very wet day in what otherwise was a very dry year to date.
It would also be a very distinctive day for the LAPD Reserve Corps. A vortex of sorts was in the works with three meetings — two next door to each other that morning, and one later that evening.
The Police Commission Meeting and the Inspector General’s Report
The Los Angeles Police Commission was to hear the results of the Inspector General’s report on the LAPD Reserve Corps. The Commission had tasked the IG with determining whether what had happened in Oklahoma on April 2 — when a 73-year-old Tulsa County sheriff’s reserve deputy mistook his firearm for his Taser and fatally shot a man — could possibly happen in Los Angeles.
Police Commission meetings are usually held every Tuesday, in an auditorium on the first floor of PAB. Recently, these meetings have become rather lively with protestors and their public comments.
Each Tuesday, the Chief of Police presents his report to the Commission, a summary of city crime statistics, Department updates and other key issues. At 1:30 that morning, an LAPD officer in Sylmar had been hit by a vehicle, throwing the officer 30 feet. The Chief advised the Commission: “This morning in Mission Division one of our sergeants was struck by a vehicle while setting up a perimeter for a robbery suspect. I visited him in the hospital this morning. He’s in good spirits. He has a broken leg, a number of staples in his head, but he will recover.”
Under Personnel statistics, the Chief’s report included 391 Levels I, II and III reserve officers; 372 specialist volunteers; and 61 chaplains.
Also at this meeting, the newest member of the Police Commission, Matthew M. Johnson, was elected President of the Commission.
The details of the meeting below are not so much chronological as an attempt to summarize the main points in a clear, concise way. To ensure that the reporting is precise, The Rotator quotes from the meeting transcript.
The IG report on the LAPD reserve program (available at www.lapdpolicecom.lacity.org/091515/BPC_15-0283.pdf) focused on service, training and deployment issues. It found that some officers had not fulfilled minimum service and training hours, or had failed to qualify. But it also found that there were no reserve OISs or other Categorical Uses of Force between January 2013 and March 2015. And it discussed “age-related deployment,” in answer to the question about Oklahoma. In conclusion, the IG report made several recommendations based on the findings (see sidebar).
The report was published on the Friday before the Commission meeting. The Los Angeles Times posted an article on the same day with the headline: “LAPD watchdog raises concerns over training and oversight of reserve officers.” The Times article focused on the “age-related deployment,” highlighting the ages of a couple of officers working in Patrol.
In the meeting, Inspector General Alexander Bustamante clarified the purpose of the report, saying that it was not a criticism of the reserve program itself: “This report had nothing to do about whether or not reserves are important or essential to the Department, whether they work hard, whether they are meaningful with their impact in the Department or any of those things…. We think reserves are a fantastic part of LAPD and an essential one. That had nothing to do with the report…. The report was simply about: Are there better ways to ensure that the people that are in reserve capacity do what they’re required to do, have the training that they’re required to have?” Mr. Bustamante also clarified the issue of “age-related deployment.” He said the goal was to find “an age-neutral way” to ensure that officers are physically capable of Patrol functions.
Review of Department’s Reserve Police Officer Program: Deputy Chief William Murphy led the Department’s presentation to the Commission. He was joined by Commander Patrick Smith and Lieutenant Darnell Davenport. At one point, Chief Murphy said that it was comparing “apples and oranges” to equate the LAPD reserve program with the one in Tulsa County.
In fact, news from Oklahoma, after the Commission had originally asked for the study, may have subsequently confirmed the differences in the two programs: On September 30, the New York Times reported that the Tulsa County reserve deputy “worked briefly as a [full-time] police officer in the 1960s, led the sheriff’s last re-election campaign and had donated expensive equipment to the sheriff’s office, including vehicles.” While the conclusion inferred from the news regarding the Tulsa program may prove eventually to be inaccurate or incomplete, it has been reported periodically elsewhere that some auxiliary/reserve programs, in their various forms throughout the nation, have been used for political purposes. “We never would do that,” Deputy Chief Murphy advised the Commission. “The Chief would never give his buddy a badge.”
In the LAPD, Chief Murphy said: “Everybody who is going to be a reserve [has] to go through the Academy. They go through the same background standards that a regular officer does.” He went on to describe the modular training of the different levels and reiterated: “But make no mistake. This is POST-certified. All the testing that they do is the same as the [full-time] Academy.”
Later, Chief Beck told the Commission: “I get that there was a problem in other places, and there is a problem in other places because reserve status is used as a quid pro quo. It’s used as a political favor. We don’t do that here.”
Service and Training: The IG report noted the number of officers who had not met minimum service hours (for example, 38 had each reportedly served less than 50 hours in a recent one-year period). The report also acknowledged, however, that “there is little incentive to maintain accurate DPS entries, unlike full-time officers, where DPS entries control paycheck totals.”
For training, the report found that 31 officers each completed less than 10 CPT hours for a recent two-year period. The Commission was informed about the Department’s auditing efforts, and that reserve officers (Levels I and II) are held to the same standard in terms of CPT and perishable skills training.
A 10-hour use-of-force class is currently being planned, and reserve officers may be directed to attend it. The course would include six hours of perishable skills. Deputy Chief Murphy reminded the Commission that a lot of Department training is career-path-related; for example, reserve officers do not go to lieutenant or sergeant training.
“Age-Related” Deployment: The Department position was that age by itself must not be the determining factor. Deputy Chief Murphy told the commissioners: “They want to be police officers. If they can do the job, then that’s the key. I’d be uncomfortable with putting an age on something if they can do the job; if they can do those essential job functions.” One of the older reserves working Patrol, it was noted, was a retired full-time sergeant with many years of service.
Chief Beck said that older reserves almost exclusively work Admin assignments that they’re familiar with and fit in with. But he reminded the commissioners that all LAPD assignments are contingent on training and capabilities: “I mean, even if I go do a search warrant, I can’t just jump in with SWAT and tell them I’m going to lead the stick in — because I haven’t been trained that way for a long time. And they can’t do that either. We make sure that they find jobs and niches that suit them. And I think the proof of that is in the results.”
Firearms Qualification: The report discussed the matter of FTQs, and the IG’s specific recommendation was that reserve officers with 30 or more years of service should have to qualify more than once a year with their primary firearm.
Deputy Chief Murphy responded: “We hold the reserves to the same standards as a [full-time] police officer. So depending upon how long you have on the job, you’re going to qualify at that particular level. The vast majority of our reserves, just like the vast majority of our officers, qualify four times a year with their handgun.”
Lieutenant Davenport added: “The qualification standards for our reserves are the exact same as for a regular officer. And if you look at the IG’s report … it indicates that as far as our reserves are concerned, from January 2013 to 2015 there has been no reserve OISs or categorical uses of force involving reserves. So our reserves are performing at a level of expectation that we would have of any officer.”
Assistant Inspector General Kevin Rogan, whose office was responsible for the report, made his case for having reserves (with 30 years or more of service) qualify more: “I can understand, and we agree that the reserves provide a great service to the City. And we certainly want to give them the impression that they’re valued members.” But he said they are “different” in that they don’t work as much, and thus are not as “familiar” with their firearms, or as practiced with tactics and other daily police procedures.
Of course, LAPD Level I reserve police officers have 24-hour peace officer status, and one can argue that these officers certainly have had 30 years of familiarity with their firearms off duty as well, the status of which comes with the same responsibility and tactics/perishable skills knowledge. This point was brought up by Chief Beck, who summed up his position on the matter: “Why would we treat a reserve officer who has gone through the same Academy I went through — when I was reserve — as you all know, I was a reserve. I know how hard it is to balance family, a regular job, and then do your reserve work. Why would we penalize a reserve that has gone through the exact same training as I do, who carries a gun every day, a Level I — he may not work every day, but he carries a gun every day, if they want to. Why would we penalize them? Why would we treat them different? Why do I want to take these 250 or so Level Is and tell them, ‘You know, you need more scrutiny than I do’?”
The Chief was adamant about not singling out reserve officers on this matter: “We’ll see what other data is out there, and we can bring it back, but at the Department macro level, and not just concentrate on our reserves and separate them out and tell them, ‘You know, hey, thanks for going through the Academy for six months. Thanks for showing up for, you know, 24 days a year, but we’re going to treat you different.’”
It should also be noted that in the weeks following this meeting, The Rotator heard a concern that the IG report did not clearly define the term or use of the phrase “failure to qualify,” and that the Inspector General’s staff unintentionally misinterpreted the item, through no fault of their own. The source stated: “In LAPD-speak the expression or use of the words ‘failure to qualify’ does not mean an officer [full-time or reserve] attempted to qualify but failed. It [usually] means that an officer never showed up to qualify as required. I think that is a big difference worth noting when considering a new policy regarding shooting proficiency.”
Reserve Motors: Commissioner Robert Saltzman asked for information on the Reserve Motors, inquiring why only West Traffic Division had a unit.
Chief Beck replied: “I’ve been through motor school. Motors school is the hardest school in the Los Angeles Police Department. And every one of these reserves had to go through it. And, to find eight, that’s pretty good…. They handle a lot of special events, things that would take our Motors away from their traffic enforcement duties and limit our ability to improve traffic safety in the city…. It was something that was created out of an enthusiasm.”
He then asked Assistant Chief Michel Moore to provide some history on the Reserve Motors. Chief Moore said that the idea for the unit sprang up in 2004, and was evaluated: “We said, these officers would have to go through and understand the rigors of the Department’s motorcycle program and have to maintain proficiency in the operation of a bike. We have very high standards on that. I remember it well because we said, let’s start it at Davis, February of 2004, and someone said, what about rain? I said, not in California. And that month it was the rainiest month for six weeks that they had in like, seven or eight years. And they actually came up with rubber ducks as their mascot. But that team is really the remaining core team today. They are hardworking Level I reserves that transitioned to motor bikes, [and] have a love for it like motor officers have to have, and have remained persistent.”
This author and LAPRF Co-President Karla Ahmanson were encouraged to speak during the public comment period. Here are excerpts of what was said:
LAPRF President Ahmanson: “I can tell you firsthand the extraordinary character of most of the men and women that participate in the reserve program. Can you imagine that somebody voluntarily would go through the kind of training that all these officers in this room have gone through — and you know how arduous it is. It’s unbelievable — that they put their lives on the line for free?” She mentioned that the Chief of the Special Constabulary in Kent, England, visited Los Angeles in September as part of a research project to learn the LAPD’s best practices for reserve law enforcement programs. (Editor’s note: See article in the Summer 2015 issue.) “LAPD’s program is extraordinarily valuable for this city — monetarily, morally, community policing — the finest example of community policing there is.”
LAPRF President Michael Sellars: “I’ve been a Los Angeles [reserve] police officer for 22, going on 23 years. And I’m as proud today as I was when I first started. You have to understand that the Reserve Corps has been around for almost 70 years. We’ve had three reserve officers killed in the line of duty…. These people are giving so much of themselves, in some cases their lives.”
In the end, the Commission voted to table a decision on the IG recommendations until the Department presented its follow-up regarding the firearms qualification and other training questions.
The new reserve recruit Academy 9-15R was scheduled to begin that Saturday. Chief Beck suggested to the commissioners: “I would love for a commissioner representative to go and talk to the recruits — talk to a reserve class. You know, it is a huge commitment. I know being a commissioner is a huge commitment, but being a reserve — that might be even worse. I mean as far as putting time in, especially when you’re going through the Academy. And to hear from you that you value them, as you’ve said, I think that would be significant.”
The Reserve Coordinators’ Meeting
Meanwhile, across the hall, reserve coordinators from throughout the Department met with the Reserve and Youth Education Section (formerly named Reserve Officer Volunteer Unit) in the COMSAT Room.
The meeting served as an introduction to the program for those new to the position, as well as getting into the details of current issues and coordinator duties and procedures. New recruitment plans were described, which can be read in more detail in the cover story of this issue of The Rotator.
Assistant Chief Moore provided a command perspective on the Reserve Corps.
Part of the agenda included:
- Lack of training and oversight (follow-up from IG report)
- The levels of reserves and what job duties each level can perform
- Full-time officers transitioning into reserves
- Divisional accountability
- Service hours
- Continuing professional training
- Inspector General review of the Department’s reserve police officer program
- Options to address issues
- Meet with reserve and develop action plan
The following was the list provided of a coordinator’s duties:
- Ensure reserve police officers complete required service hours each Deployment Planning System (DPS)
- Ensure that service hours are entered into DPS
- Ensure that reserve police officers complete their continuing professional training hours
- Ensure that reserve police officers qualify
- Ensure upon resignation, separation or termination the return of Department-owned issue equipment
- Ensure that reserve officers attend monthly reserve meeting
- Verify that each reserve police officer has a POST certificate
Reserve Advisory Committee Meeting
Later, at 6 p.m., up on the 10th Floor of PAB, Assistant Chief Moore hosted the Reserve Advisory Committee meeting. By then, several participants were tired and hungry, and Reserve Officer Eric Rose graciously provided a meal from Langer’s Deli. The Committee was established last September to identify and discuss, on a regular basis going forward, the issues and challenges affecting the Reserve Corps and the specific concerns of LAPD reserve officers. (Editor’s note: See article in the Summer 2015 issue.)
Much of the September 15 meeting was a debriefing of the Commission meeting and a summary of the Coordinators’ meeting. Chief Moore emphasized the comments made by Chief Beck and the command staff at the Commission meeting, which should leave no doubt of the Department’s position and its support of the reserve program.
Lieutenant Davenport updated the Committee on pending items. Recruitment and increasing the size of the Reserve Corps topped the agenda, and the lieutenant and his team have begun to implement this. The new reserve recruit class started in September, with 14 LAPD recruits (four of which were from the POPPs program). A much larger class is being planned for July 2016. Officers will be able to go through the modules at a much faster rate.
A goal is to provide more in-service training opportunities for all reserve levels, based upon reserve input. This includes a 12-month calendar that identifies training opportunities. The lieutenant mentioned that a lateral hiring and training process was approximately 90% complete.
Administratively, the notice for the new stipend procedure has been completed. This will change the stipends to being paid once a year, as previously reported. A single messaging system for reserve officers, like Nixle, is being looked at.
The next Committee meeting was scheduled for November 17. There is a three-year maximum term for those appointed to the Committee. The current membership will be posted on the Chief’s Web page under “Divisions and Sections” and under “Reserves.” Suggestions can be submitted directly to committee members or via the Reserve and Youth Education Section, which will also contact the Committee members with suggestions. The reserve officer members of the inaugural Committee are Sharon Abbott, John Colello, David Cox, Mitchell Englander, Mel Kennedy, James Lombardi, Eric Rose, Michael Sellars, Randi Tahara and Drew Terenzini.