It’s safe to say that a substantial number of police departments in the United States have about 135-145 sworn officers. In fact, according to data from the DOJ Office of Justice Programs, there are 770 agencies in the U.S. “with 100 or more sworn officers and 50 or more uniformed officers assigned to respond to calls for service.”
In Phoenix, that’s not even the size of the Reserve Division.
Phoenix PD now has 135 fully-sworn, Arizona-POST Certified, Reserve Officers, and at a graduation ceremony slated to be held tomorrow evening, that number grows to 145. An academy class of 20 more reserves will begin in November. The department and the city’s political leadership have set the goal to have a total of 300 Reserve Officers. Phoenix Reserve Officers did about 39,300 hours of service to their community last year alone, donating an estimated $2.4 million in police work that the city would not otherwise have been able to obtain.
Scott Finical, who serves as Assistant Chief for the Reserve Division, told PoliceOne in an exclusive interview that the his officers perform all the same duties as the city’s full time officers. “All of our guys have the same certification that the career officers have,” Finical says.
“Our men and women are street officers just like a career police officer. We put them through the Phoenix Police Reserve Academy, which is two nights a week and one weekend day for about eight months. They have the same responsibility, and regrettably, the same risks. Reserve officers have been in confrontations with perpetrators, and they’ve saved citizens’ lives.”
Finical says that the one thing his division does NOT do well, is promoting the program, but that’s by design. “When a member of the public encounters a Reserve Officer, they have no idea,” he says. “They get the same level of service — it’s the same training, the same uniform — and that’s exactly how we want it. We’re fairly invisible to people, except in instances like this.”
Rich History, Extensive Reach
Established in 1951 and recognized as one of the best police reserve organizations in the country, Phoenix PD Reserves are present in many areas of the department. For example, four are in the Airborne Unit (two are helicopter pilots, two are fixed wing pilots), some are with the department’s SWAT team (there it’s called Special Assignments Unit, or SAU), still others serve as Detectives, PIOs, School Resource Officers, Motor Patrol, and other unique duties.
“Unlike most departments where Reserves is only a patrol assignment, we’re throughout the department. Our backbone is patrol, but one of the benefits for us is that we have officers in so many assignments.”
And that is all “part time” volunteer work. Finical says he’s been a Reserve Officer for 26 years with the City of Phoenix. What’s Finical’s day job? “I’m a civil attorney and I don’t want to leave my law practice. The vast majority of our Reserves are guys like me — they’re doctors, lawyers, businessmen, firemen, military members — they want to keep their day jobs but they want to be Reserve Officers.”
Finical tells PoliceOne that a small number of the city’s Reserve Officers — particularly the young ones — soon realize how enjoyable police work is and have the youthful freedom to make a career change. That probably happens once or twice a year, Finical says.
Conversely, a good number of the reserve ranks are retired full time officers. “Some of our career officers who retire aren’t ready to give it all up, so we’re able to transition them and still have those talents — officers with 25 years experience sometimes. It’s a nice resource for our city because we’re not losing all of their talent when they retire. Some of our best homicide detectives, for example, they’re Reserves.”
A Division Run on Donations
Some of the graduates in tomorrow’s ceremony may end up like Finical, giving a quarter century of weekends and nights to their community merely for the reward of doing it — some may end up as full-time officers there. Only time will tell. What is not in doubt, however, is how some of these officers will hit the streets. They’re going to roll in five brand new, fully-equipped Chevy Tahoe police vehicles.
In conjunction with the graduation ceremony being held tomorrow, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Public Safety Manager Jack Harris will accept those vehicles on behalf of Finical and his new reserves.
The Phoenix Police Reserve Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2007 by community-minded citizens and city managers, provides equipment to the Reserve Division and City of Phoenix reserve officers that could not be funded by the regular city budget.
Finical told PoliceOne that these five vehicles have an estimated total value of $250,000 and have been specifically donated for use by the Reserve Division Officers for their police duties.
The city provides all the basic equipment for its reserve officers — duty weapons, uniforms and the like — but because his division has grown so much, they’ve “kind of outgrown the budget, and that’s where the Foundation has been able to step in,” Finical says.
“Our first critical need was vehicles, the next need that we’re focusing on are radios — the Motorola 800 MHz radios we want are about $6,000 apiece.”
The Phoenix Police Reserve Foundation counts among its sponsors such organizations as The Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Team, BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona, The Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Team, Motorola, Panasonic Computer Solutions Company, Quest Communications, Southwest Gas, and Wal-Mart.
“Panasonic is proud to support reserve officers that have so selflessly devoted time and energy to protecting their community,” Joe Martin, director of public sector business development for Panasonic told PoliceOne. Panasonic has donated five new Toughbook 30 computers to be mounted in the five Tahoe vehicles. “By working closely with the Phoenix Police Department for nine years, we have seen firsthand how innovative and effective their reserve officer program has been,” Martin concluded.
Donating to the Foundation is, Finical says, “a very exciting opportunity for people in our community to help our Department in general, and our Reserve Officers in particular.”
If you’d like to donate to the Phoenix Police Reserve Foundation, you can do so on the organization’s Web site.