Unpaid Volunteers With Guns Performing the Duties of Police Officers

All over the country, there are listings for positions for people to “perform all the duties of a police officer” with the “ability to accurately and effectively discharge a rifle, shotgun, and handgun with both left and right hands.” These positions are also unpaid — essentially, as Vice’s Dan Charles puts it, “unpaid interns with guns.”

“People are looking to join the police department, and given our hiring freeze right now, they can’t,” Jose Hernandez, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal when the department launched a reserve police officer program last March. In essence, these are unpaid interns who are expected to fetch perps, not coffee. Though the officers receive much the same training as their paid colleagues, Hernandez told the paper that, because they only work two shifts a month, they don’t have the same experience and thus are limited to patrolling with a full-time partner.

That’s not always the case in other jurisdictions. In Valley Mills, Texas, unpaid reserve officers are expected to be in patrol cars alone. In Whitney, Texas, “Non-Paid Police Officer” is a full-time job, and those officers “shall be expected to complete the same duties as full-time officers.”

This makes me … nervous. Of course, when you find unpaid volunteers to perform the duties of a police officer because of budget constraints or what have you, there is less incentive to figure out ways to get a regular, paid officer to do the job.

Photo: Dave Conner