Belleville police officers buzzing from one call to another on a busy Friday night could soon have some helping hands.
Police Chief Bill Clay plans to revive the city’s auxiliary police officer unit and assign the volunteer officers, who will carry city-issued firearms, to assist the city’s paid, full-time officers.
“We want them to be able to go out and ride along with officers ... on busy shifts,” Clay said.
The Belleville City Council on Monday night is expected to vote to amend the current ordinance regulating auxiliary officers. Under the revised ordinance, the auxiliary officers would fall under the command of the police chief instead of the previous practice of having a chief of the auxiliary police force.
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Clay said there are five candidates who are interested in joining the auxiliary unit, and he hopes to have them available for service by the end of the year. His goal is to have 20 volunteers on the unit.
The auxiliary officers will always be paired with sworn officers, Clay said.
The volunteers are expected to aid officers when the police department gets a lot of calls for service beginning at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The shift would usually end about 2 a.m.
“You’re going to have more alcohol-related calls, you’re going to have more domestics and things of that nature because of the alcohol,” Clay said.
The auxiliary officers also would be asked to help with crowd and traffic control during festivals and parades.
“They can do traffic for us; they can be teamed up and walk through the crowds,” Clay said. “So I think it helps us a lot, especially in today’s times, you’ve got to have the coverage out there.”
Clay said the city’s previous auxiliary unit halted service before he became police chief in 2007.
The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department has an auxiliary force of about 25 volunteers, and Clay said he wants the city to follow the sheriff’s department model.
Sheriff Rick Watson praised the volunteer deputies for their service to the county.
The auxiliary deputies often provide traffic control at large events or even at St. Clair Square Mall in Fairview Heights during the Christmas shopping season, Watson said.
“What they do is very important because we don’t have to have a deputy do it,” Watson said. “I think it’s a great thing. Without those auxiliary people, there’s a lot of things that our deputies would be tied up on that they take care of, and they do a very good job, and I appreciate them donating their time."
The sheriff’s department has a deputy assigned to act as a liaison to the volunteers, and this deputy reports back to Watson and other administrators.
Clay said the Belleville auxiliary force members will receive training on how to handle their city-issued firearm.
The volunteers will not have “conservator of the peace” authority. Clay said this means the volunteers do not have to attend the police academy, which can take more than three months to complete.
“They don’t have conservator of the peace power, which is that broad, police power to go out and make arrests that are generally given to law-enforcement officers,” Clay said.
Clay said he is not concerned that the volunteer officers would improperly be involved in lethal force cases.
He noted that most of the police shooting cases criticized in recent years in the St. Louis metro area and nationwide have involved full-time officers and not auxiliary officers.
The uniform and badge for the volunteers will be different from the ones worn by sworn officers, Clay said.
These are highlights of Belleville’s plan for auxiliary officers:
▪ Undergo firearms, Taser, arrest technique, handcuffing and use of force training.
▪ Pass a drug test, be 21 years of age or older and have at least a high school degree. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is preferred.
▪ Participate on a regular basis, for example at least twice a month.
▪ Receive a medical clearance and release from their personal physician.
▪ Persons interested in applying can contact Clay at the Belleville Police Department at 618-234-1212.