After a decade, the Lacombe Police Service is restarting its auxiliary program.
Lacombe Police Chief Steve Murray said that the program has value to police officers and he is glad to see members of the community showing interest once again.
Auxiliary officers are members of the community who volunteer their time to assist police officers.
“These are people who do want to be community partners,” said Murray. “They want to give back to their community.”
Murray went on to say that an auxiliary program gives members of the community a chance to see their police service at work and they can even take part in maintaining the safety of their community.
It can also be used to give individuals interested in full-time policing a chance to try it out and gives the police service a chance to evaluate them as full members, Murray added.
As long as they are with a regular police officer, auxiliary members have the same authority as regular police officers, said Murray.
While they do not carry firearms or tasers, auxiliary members are uniformed and equipped with handcuffs, batons and pepper spray. They also receive training on how to use these items.
Police officers can ask auxiliaries to assist them in a variety of tasks.
Some examples might be acting as a second of eyes in an investigation or a helping make an arrest. However, it is important to note that auxiliaries cannot perform any of these duties on their own.
“Because the auxiliaries only have police powers when they are with another officer and because they have no training in conducting investigations we can never utilize them as actual police officers independent of another (officer),” said Murray.
While auxiliary members can in no way replace a full police officer, Murray said having extra bodies still can be valuable to police work.
He added that he has worked with auxiliary members in his own career and has found having an extra set of eyes, ears or hands very helpful.
Three applicants are currently in the screening process to join the new auxiliary program, said Murray. He added there are still a “couple of hurdles” to get over before the program can launch but hopes to have it up and running by October. He added that it would be nice to have some extra bodies to help with police presence during Halloween and the heavy check stop season.
The screening process for auxiliaries is quite extensive, though not quite as much as that for regular members, said Murray.
Auxiliary members must pass a personal disclosure to examine their lifestyle, character and integrity as well as pass a polygraph test and a psychological assessment. Murray said the service’s auxiliary program died out about 10 years ago for a number of reasons.
Mainly it was to do with declining interest from volunteers due to the large commitments needed from them. Because of the extensive work needed in order to get an auxiliary officer certified, Murray said the service expects a certain kind of commitment from its auxiliaries.
However, the service also understands that not everyone can make those commitments. “It is a lot to ask of volunteers – we realize that,” said Murray.
Once the program is up and running again, Murray said the service will probably assess it before deciding if it is worthwhile to expand the program and to what extent that should be done. He said the program will probably run for about a year before anything like this is done.