Letting volunteers help make their community safe is normally a positive thing. Saving taxes is normally a positive thing, too.
But using volunteers to supplement Belleville Police just seems too risky to last.
Belleville Police are restarting an auxiliary officer program. These volunteers once were involved in the relatively light duty of helping during parades and public festivals.
Now Belleville Police Chief William Clay wants to arm volunteers who will ride in squad cars and help during the heavy weekend surge of people making poor choices. The duties will include dealing with drunks at bars and handling domestic violence, but without arrest authority.
Clay gets points for thinking creatively, but is it a good idea to put those without professional police training in some of the most challenging and potentially violent situations? The auxiliary officers will not have the advantage of police academy training, or an advanced degree in law enforcement like the real cops.
They will only have training that teaches them to hit the center of a paper target. They will not have the law enforcement people skills that help them avoid using that weapon.
We live in an age in which even the professionals with experience are being recorded with smartphones or must wear body cameras to show they are acting responsibly and within the law. How long until a volunteer gets hurt or hurts someone?
Imagine the glee of some St. Clair County personal injury lawyer getting ahold of that case. Clay will face the mother of all depositions as training, psychological testing and background of some hapless volunteer gets shredded.
City leaders and Clay should reconsider, and at least limit volunteer duties to parades, fests, office work, public relations and education. There's plenty to do other than wrestling drunks, subduing spouse beaters and praying that some kid holding a cellphone doesn't get shot.