FRAMINGHAM — The Massachusetts Volunteer Law Enforcement Officer Association (MA-VLEOA) would like to bring attention to a recent change in requirements that will cripple volunteer, auxiliary and part-time reserve police programs across the Commonwealth.
MA-VLEOA is fully supportive of additional training requirements for volunteer, part-time, special and auxiliary police officers that were established by the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) as a result of the Police Reform Act signed into law in December of 2020. These officers — collectively referred to as reserve officers — are currently working in communities across the Commonwealth and are fully trained to the previously recognized MPTC reserve standard, but the Police Reform Act determined that additional training will be needed.
The new requirements, which are supported by MA-VLEOA, call for all reserve officers to complete an additional 120-hours of hands-on training in emergency vehicular operation, defensive tactics and firearms training, as well as 96 hours of online training and four hours of testing, for a total of 220 hours of additional training.
However, the MA-VLEOA is troubled by a recent change in longstanding policy, resulting in a requirement that the 120-hours of hands-on training be conducted only during regular business hours, instead of on nights and weekends.
“Most volunteer, part-time and auxiliary police officers in Massachusetts also have full-time jobs during regular business hours that make it almost impossible for them to take time off from their careers to complete police training during the day,” said MA-VLEOA President Marc Spigel, an Auxiliary Captain with 42 years of experience with the Framingham Police Department. “We support rigorous training requirements and strict standards, which are essential to keeping communities and officers safe, but arbitrarily insisting that these requirements be met from Monday to Friday during business hours will leave thousands of well-intentioned officers who only want to serve their communities out in the cold.”
Up until this year, reserve officers were able to train on nights and weekends, just like call and volunteer firefighters are able to attend the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy’s Call/Volunteer Training on nights and weekends, which enables them to train and further their education while also maintaining other careers.
Further complicating matters, the MPTC also established a required experience level of 2,400 hours spent working with powers of arrest over a 5-year period or other such period as the amount of experience required for officers to be exempt from completing a full-time police academy. That requirement is deeply problematic because many volunteer officers do not have arrest powers, and would therefore be excluded from continuing to work in Massachusetts. Additionally, many volunteer and reserve officers do not work enough shifts to meet the requirement even if they do have arrest powers.
Many communities across the Commonwealth are already experiencing difficulty with recruiting new police officers and maintaining staffing levels, so a drastic reduction in the availability of reserve officers could be deeply problematic, especially in smaller communities that have traditionally relied heavily on auxiliary and reserve forces to supplement their full-time officers.
Restricting reserve officers to training only on weekdays would exacerbate the shortage of police officers in many small and rural communities where these individuals perform day-to-day patrol functions and frequently fill gaps created during community events, such as parades, road races and others, and help ensure adequate staffing during large-scale emergencies as well.
Reserve officers have traditionally made up a pipeline of candidates for full-time police positions that would dry up if volunteer and reserve officers were to be excluded from serving.
Having fewer reserve officers available will also result in significant increased costs for community and non-profit groups, particularly those who are fundraising. Going forward, community and non-profit groups will likely need to pay for resources that have previously been provided by volunteer officers, and which will stretch existing public safety resources thin if provided by the community.
“Up to 3,000 reserve officers who are dedicated members of their communities will be forced into early retirement or unable to pursue their goals in law enforcement due to these new requirements being handed down amid the most difficult time for police recruiting on record,” said President Spigel. “These are good people, doing good things, for good reasons, and the MPTC is making it nearly impossible for them to serve their communities while still pursuing gainful careers elsewhere in the community.”
To sign a Change.org petition urging Gov. Charlie Baker to have these requirements reconsidered, click here.
To learn more about the Massachusetts Volunteer Law Enforcement Officer Association, or to get more information on the new requirements, click here.
To learn more about the many ways reserve officers successfully support communities around the world, click here.