Two reserve police officers have been sent to the sidelines by the state, suspended for patrolling too much without full-time training. Two towns near Omaha are impacted by the decision.
“We can use them for special events.” Bennington Police Chief Les Johnson called on reserves to help keep the town safe, even though the part-time officers have less training. “There hasn't been a single reserve in our department that's had any type of liability issue because of the job they've been doing.”
Two reserve officers have been ordered by the state to shelve their badges and gun belts for working too many hours with too little training. “I'm concerned that communities are using a person that is not fully certified where a person should be fully certified in exercising police powers,” says Nebraska State Training Director Bill Muldoon.
Reserve officer Greg Scheer said he wasn’t a liability when he served in 2009. “I’ve taken the same test full-time officers take. I've taken the same firearms training.”
Bennington Mayor Mary Johnson is asking the City Council to eliminate the reserve officer program. “They can't do everything that a certified officer can do so why are we paying them the amount we pay a fully certified officer?”
Chief Johnson says if the reserve program is eliminated, that not only takes extra eyes off the streets, but leaves him shorthanded for summer events in town. “Three less people available to patrol the city when we need them to be here.”
Mayor Johnson, a former Omaha police officer, disagrees. “There are more certified officers out there, open your eyes, find them.”
A full-time certified officer gets five times more training and that's why the two reserves who worked hundreds of hours more than they should have are suspended by the state.
Both reserve officers have appealed their suspensions. One worked in both Valley and Bennington, the other just in Valley. Valley's police chief doesn’t expect a drop in service, but he is trying to hire a part-time officer.