[Marxism] The 73-year-old ‘reserve’ cop who mistook his gun for a Taser
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 13 07:00:19 MDT 2015
(The title of this article resonates eerily with Oliver Sacks's book on
neurological disorders "The Man who mistook his wife for a hat".)
Washington Post, Apr. 13 2015
The 73-year-old ‘reserve’ cop who mistook his gun for a Taser
By Lindsey Bever
Why was a 73-year-old insurance company executive riding around playing cop?
That’s the simple question many are asking more than a week after an
undercover Tulsa Police operation went wrong — and a white “reserve
deputy sheriff” shot and killed an unarmed black man, apparently by
accident. He has not been charged with a crime.
When Robert Bates pulled his weapon and shot 44-year-old Eric Harris on
April 2, he said he thought his handgun was his Taser. In a video
released by authorities over the weekend, a gunshot fires and Bates
says, “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.” The incident was one of two shootings
this month in which a white officer shot and killed an unarmed black man
— and it has created a backlash for many reasons, one being Bates is not
a real police officer. He’s a reserve sheriff’s deputy. And some fear he
wasn’t qualified to be one.
The Tulsa World said Bates, who worked for a year as a police officer in
1964-65, served as chairman of the Re-elect Sheriff (Stanley) Glanz
Committee in 2012 and donated $2,500 to Glanz’s campaign that year. The
footage of the shooting was captured on a body camera worn by another
What was a “reserve” cop, aging or otherwise, doing with a gun out on
It’s not all that uncommon. Volunteer reserve officers have become a
staple in the Tulsa sheriff’s department, which reportedly uses 100 of
them, as well as in many other cities. It’s not unusual for them to be
out on assignment, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Major Shannon Clark told the
Tulsa World. By trade, they’re bankers, doctors, lawyers, retired cops
or even celebrities. They get varying degrees of training and they help
the local police, not just by patrolling with them, usually at no cost,
but sometimes by bringing their own equipment, including weapons. Some
departments request donations in exchange for the positions. The Oakley,
Mich., police department asks for $1,200, according to Salon.
“These people drop four or five grand and dress up to look like police,”
Donna LaMontaine, president of the Deputy Sheriffs Association of
Michigan, told the magazine. “I have a problem with that.”
Still, many reserve officers have been hailed as heroes. A number of
them have paid with their lives. Others have taken lives.
Professional police officers are of different minds about the
reservists, Doug Wylie wrote in a 2011 article in PoliceOne.
“I believe the ‘part time’ system of policing is absolutely ridiculous,”
an unnamed law enforcement official told PoliceOne.com. “The job has
changed since walking down the street and spinning your baton. We now
encounter more diverse and complicated situations, where we are expected
to wear a multitude of hats, and do it perfectly the first time. We
contend with more anti-police groups, 24/7 video taping, and more
charging and law suit filings then ever before. As such, to do this job
without a full salary and full benefits is insane.”
[Oklahoma deputy who killed unarmed man thought he was firing Taser,
Indeed, the job means the dangers of police work usually without the
compensation. Some reserve officers patrol the streets on foot or on
bicycles. Others ride in police cars. Some provide extra security in
schools and shopping malls. Others have full police powers.
In California, reserve training is broken up into three levels that
total some 900 hours, the top tier ranking them as peace officers,
according to Police magazine. In Summerville, S.C., it takes about 240
hours of field training to get access to a service weapon and a patrol
car, according to the Summerville Journal Scene. In Tulsa, Bates had
reportedly trained for hundreds of hours in homicide investigation and
decontamination, police told the Tulsa World.
“If they have that badge on, that means they are sworn in by the
sheriff,” Summerville Captain John Smith told the Journal Scene,” and
the only difference between them and regular officers is they don’t get
But there’s another difference: Most cops retire long before they’re 73;
Many retire in their 50s. Some police departments won’t hire anyone past
age 40 for the physically demanding jobs.
[How a cellphone video led to murder charges against a cop in North
But young and old alike become reservists.
For some, reserve programs have become the entry level to full-time
police positions. For others, they are an option for retired officers
are want to stay on the streets.
“The reserve program is great for departments to fall back on,” one
PoliceOne member, Gordon Corey, said. “Even though most reserves are
limited commission, if you have full-commissioned officers who are
willing to still volunteer as reserves, that gives departments the
opportunity to utilize these officers to fulfill call-ins and vacations
from full-time officers. With this option, departments won’t have to
worry they will make the wrong decision. With reserves who are just
reserves and have full time jobs other than law enforcement jobs only
make decisions based on what they learn in the reserve police academy
which is far less than what a full time officer is taught in the police
[Man who filmed S.C. police shooting: Maybe God ‘put me there for some
Years ago, former Los Angeles county Sheriff Lee Baca created a
controversial special reserves program for celebrities and, by 1999, it
had been suspended after one recruit was suspended for brandishing his
weapon and then another was indicted for international money laundering.
Big names have joined the ranks elsewhere, sometimes seriously,
sometimes just for photo ops. Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has
been a reserve officer in Arizona, California and Florida. In 2013,
movie star Steven Seagal became a deputy in New Mexico and “Hulk” actor
Lou Ferrigno picked up a badge in Ohio.
“I love that I can give back to my community and anyone that needs help
with search and rescue,” Ferrigno said, according to Police magazine. “I
enjoy doing search and rescue as a reserve deputy. We had a woman who’d
fainted in the mountains and needed assistance. We get to her and when
we bring her back to consciousness she looks up at me and says, ‘Are you
Lou Ferrigno, the Hulk?’ When I told her I was she got all excited and
“I felt so bad. We were here to help her, not to make her faint again.
Everything turned out fine, but I always laugh about that story.”
[South Carolina killing of Walter Scott leaves two mothers grieving and
But the job is no joke.
In 2005, reserve constable Nehemiah Pickens from Harris County, Tex.,
was gunned down while assisting in an arrest. In 2013, reserve officer
Robert Libke from Oregon City, Ore., was shot and killed when he
confronted an armed man who had set fire to his own house. The Reserve
Police Officers Association lists more than 200 who have died in the
line of duty over the years.
But the nature of the job — usually a volunteer position that varies
greatly from department to department in the minimum training required —
can pose a danger to the public as well.
“I think reserves, being at work less, have that much more of an
obligation to be up on their tactics, officer safety, the law, and
policy,” Evan Wagner, a reserve deputy assigned to Los Angeles County’s
Lakewood Sheriff Station, told Police magazine. “I think we’re often
expected to be weaker in those areas and it makes a big impression when
we’re competent. I make mistakes, but try not to twice. We may wear the
same badge and uniform and face the same risks, but I don’t think that
means we’re entitled to the trust of partners, whose lives will at times
depend upon us. I think reserves have to earn regulars’ trust by visibly
aspiring to keep themselves at their level of proficiency as much as
During a traffic stop in 2012, Steven Williams, a reserve deputy for the
Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, chased a suspect as he fled on
foot and, during a struggle over his service weapon, shot and killed
Randall Kyle Wilcox. In 2013, a then 62-year-old electrical inspector —
also a reserve deputy with the local sheriff’s department — shot himself
through the hip while at city hall.
So why accept the risk?
“For me, it isn’t about the money anyway. It isn’t about making arrests
either,” James Watson, who has been a reserve deputy for the Dorchester
County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years, told the Journal Scene
in Summerville. “For me, it’s just helping people.”
“But the way I see it,” he added, “law enforcement, fire service, EMS —
it’s not for the pay. It’s more of a calling.”
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