Moment in Time: Newton Reserve Task Force

Reserve task forces have been some of the best examples of how the LAPD’s reserve program can make a substantial impact — wonderful case studies of what reserve officers are capable of doing when the support is there. For many years, it was not unusual to have details or task forces of 20 or more reserve officers targeting specific crime problems throughout the city.1 The Immediate Booking and Release System was an ongoing detail that was invaluable for many years.

In the 1980s, the Area Command at Newton Division had a little epiphany: We are not going to get additional full-time officers, but this reserve program exists, and we could potentially augment our deployment if we developed our own reserve unit.

Captain I Robert Riley took a risk by reassigning one of his most productive P3s to build an area reserve program. Meanwhile, Reserve Officer Gil Peterson had been working with Sergeant Bob Kellar, and Gil was basically in charge of all reserve in-service training at the time.

Gil moved to Oregon, and he asked me if I would be interested in taking over his position to organize and oversee in-service training. I did and became very familiar with most members of the Reserve Corps. So when the new Newton Area reserve coordinator was charged with building a program at Newton, he asked me to join him there to do so.

Jim O’Reily was a Vietnam veteran who was very goal-driven, and since I knew many of the reserves, together we built the Newton program from two reserves to over 30. We did numerous training days as we shaped the reserve program at Newton, and we called it the Newton Strike Force. 

At that time, I was also the Central Bureau R7 and reported in that role to Commander Robert Gil and Deputy Chief Jim Chambers. When they saw what was going on at Newton, they asked if we could do some task force work throughout the bureau, so we ended up putting together several deployments at MacArthur Park in Rampart along with IBARS, and really cleaned up specific areas with over 30 reserves working problem areas throughout Central Bureau.

In addition to the task force deployment, back at Newton, we ended up working two-man units (A-, X- and Q-cars), with very strong coverage in the Area, making lots of felony and misdemeanor arrests. None of that would have been possible were it not for the approval of Newton Captains Riley and Frank Patchet, with the blessing, I might add, of Commander Gil. Also, as you can see, the Reserve Management Structure running at the time helped to facilitate the task forces; the structure was instrumental in coordinating plans between areas and bureaus citywide. It was very useful for both the Reserve Corps and those who managed the reserve program. As needs would come up, that peer-to-peer call would go out immediately, and reserves would respond, as they would feel that little extra pressure that one of our own was making the request — and frankly, our reserves don’t want to miss out on an assignment that has some importance to the Department and for the overall appearance of the Corps.

The reason these task forces were so successful is because reserve officers were given the opportunities to use their skills and experience as police officers, on the street, fighting crime, the very motivation that so many of us signed up for. In today’s challenging times, with limited resources, it is often forgotten just how impactful these reserve law enforcement operations were, and arguably can be again, to the Reserve Corps, the Department and, most importantly, the city we serve. 

1Editor’s note: An example of these task forces was featured in the first issue of The Rotator uploaded online. The Spring 2008 issue cover story was: “A Major Move by the LAPD: Reserve Crime Suppression Unit a Big Success. Forty-one reserve officers, from all over the city, came to the Hollywood Area on April 5 — Saturday night — as the LAPD launched its Reserve Officer Crime Suppression Unit, a new task force set up by the Office of Operations, to help address crime and quality-of-life issues for city residents. KABC-TV News, filing a live report at the scene, called it ‘a major move by the LAPD.’” HWD Area’s Commanding Officer at the time was Captain Beatrice Girmala, now Assistant Chief of Operations. The full article can be read at the archive.