Newspaper: Michigan doesn't oversee 3K civilian officers

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan has 3,000 civilian officers that operate with no state oversight, and the state agency that has the authority to set requirements has no plans to do so soon, a newspaper reported.
The Detroit Free Press said the state hasn’t created training requirements for the reserve officers, has no standards for screening their qualifications and doesn’t have a process for monitoring their conduct.
The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards doesn’t have a true count of the unlicensed volunteers in Michigan. The newspaper’s estimate of 3,000 civilian officers is compiled from Freedom of Information Act requests filed with police agencies in 2017, though not all agencies provide the information.
The newspaper said civilian officers’ responsibilities range from directing traffic and working security at events to serving as the partners of licensed officers and assisting with patrols, raids, investigations and arrests.
Civilian officers are typically unpaid and can sometimes carry a firearm. Reserves don’t have law enforcement authority unless they’re with a licensed officer, officials said.
The lack of regulation comes despite numerous cases of questionable conduct by civilian officers. The newspaper found that civilian officers have included the former leader of a hate group, a convicted felon and a vigilante group that detained teens at gunpoint.
The law enforcement commission gained the authority to set training requirements about two years ago. The agency is deluged by other responsibilities and has suffered from budget cuts over the last few years, so it’s unclear when regulations will be put in place, said Commission Executive Director Tim Bourgeois.
“We just simply haven’t had time to get to it yet,” he said.
Critics say the lack of state oversight puts citizens and the reserve officers at risk.
David Harvey, the commission’s former executive director, lobbied the Legislature before his retirement for the commission to have the power to set standards.
“You have a person carrying a gun who can take someone’s life in the right circumstances, someone who has a badge and authority, who can take away their personal freedoms against the Constitution,” he said. “That’s a lot of power, just as much as a doctor has when they have a scalpel leaning over you.
“You wouldn’t have an untrained person opening up your gut.”DETROIT (AP) — Michigan has 3,000 civilian officers that operate with no state oversight, and the state agency that has the authority to set requirements has no plans to do so soon, a newspaper reported.
The Detroit Free Press said the state hasn’t created training requirements for the reserve officers, has no standards for screening their qualifications and doesn’t have a process for monitoring their conduct.
The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards doesn’t have a true count of the unlicensed volunteers in Michigan. The newspaper’s estimate of 3,000 civilian officers is compiled from Freedom of Information Act requests filed with police agencies in 2017, though not all agencies provide the information.
The newspaper said civilian officers’ responsibilities range from directing traffic and working security at events to serving as the partners of licensed officers and assisting with patrols, raids, investigations and arrests.
Civilian officers are typically unpaid and can sometimes carry a firearm. Reserves don’t have law enforcement authority unless they’re with a licensed officer, officials said.
The lack of regulation comes despite numerous cases of questionable conduct by civilian officers. The newspaper found that civilian officers have included the former leader of a hate group, a convicted felon and a vigilante group that detained teens at gunpoint.
The law enforcement commission gained the authority to set training requirements about two years ago. The agency is deluged by other responsibilities and has suffered from budget cuts over the last few years, so it’s unclear when regulations will be put in place, said Commission Executive Director Tim Bourgeois.
“We just simply haven’t had time to get to it yet,” he said.
Critics say the lack of state oversight puts citizens and the reserve officers at risk.
David Harvey, the commission’s former executive director, lobbied the Legislature before his retirement for the commission to have the power to set standards.
“You have a person carrying a gun who can take someone’s life in the right circumstances, someone who has a badge and authority, who can take away their personal freedoms against the Constitution,” he said. “That’s a lot of power, just as much as a doctor has when they have a scalpel leaning over you.
“You wouldn’t have an untrained person opening up your gut.”