Sure they’re old but can they still get the job done?

They are old but can they still do the job?

When responding to large-scale disasters or incidents, public safety resources disappear quickly. None disappear more quickly perhaps than law enforcement. While many law enforcement agencies have auxiliary officers in some capacity, relatively few have a reserve force made up of retirees to assist during a major crisis or critical incident.

Can retired police officers with decade’s worth of experience be mobilized and deployed to augment full time police departments. Can these officers relieve current officers at traffic or security posts allowing public safety agencies the better respond to incidents or can retirees with significant experience do more to help during a crisis?

Many officers retire before a mandatory retirement age and in some instances may be younger than the fulltime officers they are there to help. In some instances officer are forced to retire due to arbitrary retirement ages set by their agency. According International Association of Police, 86 year old Lt. Leo Thalassittes of the Hialeahi Police Department is the oldest fulltime piolice officer in the United States.

Many agencies have auxiliary departments that augment their fulltime police force. These auxiliary officers may work traffic details or security posts at civic events that overburden the fulltime police department. The worlds largest police department, New York City Police Department (NYPD) has a significant auxiliary force. Although unarmed, these officers wear almost identical uniforms as regular NYPD officers and carry a baton for protection. The NYPD website lists the following areas for their auxiliary officers to assist fulltime officers:

· Residential or commercial areas

· Community festivals, parades, concerts, street fairs, park patrols

· Subway entrances and token booth areas

· Perimeter of Houses of Worship

· Crime prevention activities

· Traffic control

One big question is, would officers be interested in joining a reserve force comprised of retired officers and would current officers reject them? Is there a roll for them to play in the current homeland security picture?

The fact is many retired officers are still physically and mentally capable of carrying out the duties of a sworn officer. Today’s retiree is more fit then his predecessors were. Arbitrarily set mandatory retirement ages set decades ago do not reflect the current state of fitness or health many public safety officials now have. The American worker stays on the job longer than decade ago but public safety workers are still compelled to retire earlier than other government workers. Retired officers bring with them years worth of training and experience that many auxiliary officers have not yet acquired. Public safety agencies spend thousands of dollars to train and educate their employees only to see them forced into retirement or officers electing to retire with all that acquired knowledge. Law enforcement agencies could recruit a small but specialized group of retirees to call upon in an emergency. Departments could identify areas they would be overwhelmed in should a catastrophe occur or a major incident arises that would deplete officers away from ordinary duties. These officers could be actively recruited to join a Retire Officers Corp to be called upon in crisis.

I have encountered many retired law enforcement officer who still want to contribute to their community or their old department in some capacity. Many retirees would jump at the chance to contribute in an emergency.

Officers would need to maintain minimum standards of training and certification set by their agency to be considered. Retirees would need to meet physical standards to work as a reserve in an emergency.

The benefits to an agency developing a reserve police force comprised of retirees to aid in crises are numerous. Some of the benefits are:

1. Retirees are already trained to perform this job.

2. Retirees could keep their uniforms and equipment upon retirement and have these available in a crisis.

3. Trained retirees could continue to carry a firearm as they did during their years on the force.

4. Departments are already familiar with these officers and much less resources will be spent doing background checks.

5. There would be less resistance from current officers who may have worked alongside these retirees.

6. Retired officers would be familiar with other retirees and can work in teams.

7. Agencies could easily exclude problem officers that were retired.

8. Retirees could be called back by specialty in an emergency such as crime scene specialists or officers with skills in interviewing witnesses.

Retired public safety workers still possess significant skills and value that can be leveraged during a crisis or significant event. Finding a way to put these skills to use could help large and small departments alike to better serve their communities.