By Pat Caldwell
NYSSA – They are volunteers and they do not get paid but for Nyssa Police Chief Ray Rau, his reserve officers are a critical resource for protecting the public.
“Your officer safety and your citizen safety increases to where you can better handle something that comes up. We have had seven to nine officers on a scene in five minutes,” Rau said.
The Nyssa Police Department Reserve Office Program isn’t a new initiative in the Thunderegg Capital of the World but it gained added emphasis after Rau became the chief in 2012. The program allows Rau a degree of flexibility when he develops police coverage.
“It is wonderful. When I have one guy sick and two off at training, I have three reserves working and coming out and covering shifts with a full-time guy,” Rau said.
The department carries eight reserve officer slots on its roster, though Rau said two of those positions are vacant.
The program is the only one in Malheur County, Rau said. Rau said his reserve program isn’t viewed or treated as an inferior element to his department. Instead, Rau said, he ensures that there is seamlessness between full-time police officers and his part-time lawmen.
“The expectation has to be the same. The day you expect mediocrity it becomes the norm,” Rau said. “There are guys we let go because they did not meet the expectations we set.”
There are three levels in the reserve program, Rau said. A Level I reserve officers has just finished training. Usually after a year, a reserve officer will go before an evaluation team – consisting of two Nyssa sergeants – and a possible move to Level II. At Level II, a reserve officer can check out a police car and do patrols and other law enforcement duties as long as a full-time police officer is on duty. Before Rau swears them in, each reserve officer must complete a 320-hour police academy in Baker City.
The curriculum at the academy is based on the state’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, the agency that certifies law enforcement personnel in Oregon.
Though the academy training doesn’t certify the reserves officers, it does give them a robust and comprehensive understanding of law enforcement, Rau said.
When the academy training is finished, each reserve candidate must complete a testing process with the NPD. After a background check the candidate will go before an interview panel of Nyssa officers. Once accepted, each reserve office qualifies with his weapon and then they are sworn in.
Once sworn in, a reserve officer wields the same power as a full-time Nyssa police officer.
“While they are operating under my authority, they have full arrest authority and can enforce all the laws in the state,” Rau said.
However, Rau said the new officers are not just thrown out onto the street without supervision.
“They have a limited role and will never supplement a full-time guy,” Rau said.
Each reserve officer must work a minimum of 20 hours a month, Rau said.
“Our reserves are all part of our tactical team. You wouldn’t know the difference between the full-time guys and the reserves,” Rau said. “We all train together and it is consistency.”
Rau said his reserve officers also furnish extra help when a big event occurs in Nyssa.
“The rodeo, parades, they provide security for vendors at these events and supplement us,” he said.
The program also is a benefit for people contemplating becoming police officers.
“This gives them a idea about whether they want to do this or not,” he said.