Columbus police officials hope to reduce the department’s overtime costs by creating a reserve force of volunteer retired officers.
Police Chief Jason Maddix wants to have the reserve force operating by the end of the year. He anticipates the volunteer officers could help reduce overtime by about $6,720 per reserve officer per year.
The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department has operated a reserve program for decades with volunteer deputies who have all the same powers as career officers. Sheriff’s reserves work thousands of hours each year, saving the sheriff’s department roughly $250,000 if it were to pay full-time career deputies to perform the same work.
The Columbus Police Department reserve program would be different than the sheriff’s, Maddix said.
He said the city police will seek officers retired from the department to come back and volunteer their time, a decision made partly to meet accreditation standards. The police department has embarked on a three-year review of policies and procedures to earn accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation and Law Enforcement Agencies, a credentialing agency created in 1979 by law enforcement professionals.
“We can leverage our retired officers’ experience and all that training,” Maddix said.
The accreditation agency’s standards require reserve officers have certification from a law enforcement academy, are selected by the same process as full-time officers and have the same training as full-time officers.
Maddix said retired officers would meet all the standards and have additional benefits of already knowing the community and department procedures.
“The quality of service will not be diminished,” Maddix said.
Lt. Matt Myers, spokesman for the police department, said the department would like to start the program with two to four reserves and build up the program to include about 10 officers. Maddix noted that the city has 13 full-time officers eligible for retirement.
Reserve officers would work an average of one to two shifts per month for a total of 12 to 16 hours. They would fill in for staffing shortages and help at special events, including Fourth of July fireworks displays, Ethnic Expo and other events.
They also would be available for emergency and disaster response.
Paying a full-time officer overtime costs about $35 an hour. At 16 hours per month for 12 months, the total for one full-time officer’s overtime is $6,720.
Starting the program will have a “minimal budget impact,” Maddix said.
Retired Columbus police officers already have all the necessary uniforms and equipment. Outfitting a reserve who is not a Columbus police retiree would cost about $1,800.
Reserve officers would share police cars and drive them only while on duty. Law enforcement liability insurance would cost $720 per officer.
The Columbus City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance forming the reserve program Tuesday.
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