After a six-month training program, they are ready to join the police force. They are required to put in almost 300 hours of service a year and can do almost anything that a paid police officer can do. Yet, the men and women who serve as auxiliary police officers receive no compensation — it is a labor of love.
The reasons that they join vary as much as the personalities of the officers. Christina Frazzini had been with Federal law enforcement for years working on narcotics and violent crime. When she became a stay-at-home mom, she wanted to continue to be a part of law enforcement. Becoming an auxiliary officer enabled her to do that.
Alton Summers retired from the Federal government and decided that he wanted to give something back to the neighborhood so he joined the auxiliary.
Bill Gibson retired from the Army and volunteered for the auxiliary because he wanted to be useful.
“I love it and will keep doing it as long as I can,” Summers said.
“You’re never bored, that’s one of the advantages. Nothing is routine and you can watch people with a fresh set of eyes.” Gibson said.
“If you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t do it,” Frazzini said. “I would definitely recommend this to anybody who wants to pursue a legal career — or anybody who wants to help out.”
WHILE MOST AUXILIARY officers do not go on to become paid officers, it is a way to find out if that’s a viable career for someone. Gibson said that he has seen a trend towards younger people entering the auxiliary and then going on to become part of the paid force.
“If you’re a Level 3 or 4, and on patrol support, you get a good feel of what it’s like,” Gibson said.
THERE ARE FOUR LEVELS that an auxiliary can be assigned to. After completing the police academy, auxiliary officers are Level 1 until they are fully trained and have everything in their training manual signed off. Level 2 officers normally perform administrative duties and other support duties to facilitate the conduct of police operations and special events.
Level 3 officers are sworn volunteer police officers who are trained to support patrol operations. A Level 3 may be directed to do solo patrol support activities by a supervisor. While performing those duties, the Level 3 may respond to calls to back up dispatched officers and may even be dispatched — or self-dispatch — to some routine, non-confrontational calls at the discretion of the supervisor and/or dispatcher.
Level 4 officers are sworn volunteer police officers who are trained to support patrol operations. A Level 4 is expected to perform solo patrol support duties and is authorized to self-dispatch or be dispatched to a series of routine, non-confrontational complaints as the primary respondent.
After undergoing surgery, Summers requested to be changed to a Level 2 officer. Because civilians are not allowed to drive marked police cars, he spends much of the time driving the police cars to and from the service area. Summers was one of the first auxiliary officers to serve at Mount Vernon; he also spent two years as a traffic enforcement officer.
“It keeps you coming back for more, gets the adrenaline pumping,” Summers said.
Some of the tougher moments were when Gibson saw a man pull over on Richmond Highway and shoot himself in his car. Summers remembers his first SIDS death and said that was very hard.
Gibson is a Level 4 and rides solo; while Frazzini is a Level 3 and rides with another officer. A total of 12 auxiliary officers currently serve the Mount Vernon District; one is Level 2; seven are Level 3 and four are Level 4.
There are about 100 auxiliary officers in Fairfax County now; a new Academy starts April 11. (See box for more information).
The fact that Frazzini speaks Spanish and is a female makes her very valuable on the beat. She can translate for victims and suspects and can do searches on females on the spot; saving the male officers a trip back to the station. Frazzini likes the fact that unlike a paid job, she can say when she can’t come in.
THE AUXILIARY ASSIST with augmented patrol; write parking tickets; transport prisoners; supply support at DWI Checkpoints; assist with crowd control, special events (parades), hospital guard duty and child safety seat installations; and handle administrative functions such as shuttling cruisers to the garage for service.
“Without our auxiliaries, we could not function as the lowest officer per citizen ratio in the country, because we would have to say no to a lot of requests that come in for additional assistance in the community,” said Capt. Mike Kline, commander Mount Vernon District Police Station.
Gibson gave more examples of how the auxiliary free up the officers. While the paid officer may respond initially to an accident or a disabled motorist, the auxiliary can wait while help is summoned. While paid officers are in roll call, receiving briefing on DWI Checkpoints, auxiliary officers go out ahead and set up the checkpoint signs and cones; the paid officers come later. The auxiliary officers help the magistrate and help guard prisoners in area hospitals. They will also be involved in pedestrian enforcement, something that Kline wants to start fully enforcing this spring. Last April, the officers wrote 89 tickets. During the sniper incident, auxiliary officers provided special coverage, and on 9-11, they were all out on the street.
2nd Lt. T. J. Rogers, who supervises the auxiliary officers, said, “The auxiliary officers can do anything that a paid officer can do; they are restricted only by department policy. As department responsibilities have grown, so have that of the auxiliary. They do a lot of jobs that paid officers don’t want to do. Al runs the cars back and forth. Bill helps set up DWI Checkpoints. Without the auxiliary, we couldn’t do what we do.”
Rogers said that they could take as many as 15 auxiliary officers at Mount Vernon; while they are very helpful, there is coordination involved in getting the officers where they need to be. Gibson handles most of that and Rogers oversees it. Auxiliary can request a certain station, but they are placed where they are needed.
“I would love to see more people apply,” Summers said.
“You get used to working with good units,” Gibson said. “You get real satisfaction from being involved with a good organization. It’s a tough job, not everybody can do it.”