Reserve Programs: A Community Asset In These Difficult Times

Far too often, we find ourselves posting our condolences to the Foundation Facebook page, to families and friends of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The cover photo of the LAPD badge with the mourning band is unfortunately the cover photo we have used the most, since we started the page in 2011.

Our thoughts are with our friends in Dallas.

The Dallas Police Department has one of the best reserve programs in the United States. The Dallas Police Reserve Foundation was recently established. One of our active veteran LAPD reserve police officers (and LAPRF Board Member) relocated to Dallas after retiring from his full-time job, and helped to start that foundation.

Usually, a law enforcement reserve program is evaluated in terms of hours and duties worked. That is, at best, an incomplete evaluation. We need to look beyond the numbers, to a value that cannot be so easily measured. By definition, a reserve officer distinctly spends their time between two different communities – they are sworn peace officers, protecting and serving; a job you can only really know by walking in those shoes, and then they take off that uniform, go home, and live in the community that is being served, away from daily police work.

This puts our reserve police officers in a unique position. In the latest Rotator newsletter (Summer 2016), one of our reserve officers described how reserve officers can help bridge a gap: “With so much happening in the nation and so much criticism of law enforcement, as reserve officers I think we are in a special place to build that trust with our communities.” We could not have said it better ourselves.

At our annual banquet in April, LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck told reserve officers: “What you do not only when you work the streets but when you talk to your neighbors; when you portray the best side of the LAPD – that is invaluable. That is what makes the difference… People don’t understand the heart of the LAPD. People don’t understand the commitment. People don’t understand the sacrifice. And all of you exhibit that so plainly, so obviously, that anybody can see it.

Today 37 new full-time LAPD Officers graduated from the Academy. Meanwhile, a peaceful march led by Snoop Dogg and The Game arrived at the Police Administration Building. They came, they said, seeking a conversation.

Snoop Dogg said: “We didn’t know they were gonna be graduating students but this is even better because now that they are about to hit the streets they know there is some sort of dialogue going on and they don’t have to be fearful and they can do their jobs and know that when you stop somebody you are a conversation away from sending them home or taking them to jail, but the conversation is key.”

The Game said he believes Los Angeles can set an example for the rest of the country by demonstrating that police and minority communities can work together to keep all citizens safe.

Chief Beck had told the graduating class, in articulating the anger and sadness we feel, that the attack (in Dallas) is a symbol of a breakdown. “We have done what societies do when they’re in trouble. We have separated. We have broken into tribes.” He later said, “We cannot continue to be broken up into tribes.”

And it is here where a good reserve program – not only in the City of Los Angeles but also across the nation – can help bridge that gap between “tribes”. Reserve peace officers, in places like Los Angeles and Dallas, are some of the best trained officers in the nation. They are held to the same standards as their full-time partners, and they know what it’s like to walk in those challenging, sometimes dangerous shoes. Meanwhile, off duty, they are your friends, your work associates. They are doctors, entrepreneurs, salespeople, software engineers, bankers, teachers – the list goes on. They are your neighbors; they may work in your favorite restaurant; they may be playing in the band you’re listening to right now (we have several musicians in the Corps).

It is in difficult times, in the tragic moments that anger and divide people, that reserve peace officers can become the greatest community assets that most have never heard about. They can help us realize that we are not so different after all.