[Marxism] The 73-year-old ‘reserve’ cop who mistook his gun for a Taser

Louis Proyect 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 
the streets?

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, 
authorities say]

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 
Charleston, S.C.]

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 
fainted again.

“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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