Devorah Talia Gordon
Although L.A. boasts Hatzolah, Shomrim, and even Chaverim, now community members are being invited to join the Los Angeles Police Department as reserve officers, to protect the greater L.A. community, as well as serve in our own backyard.
The Reserve Officer and Volunteer Unit (ROVU) is the brainchild of Chaplain Shmuel Newman. As chaplain for the West Bureau and senior Jewish advisor to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Newman noticed that the Jewish community was underrepresented in the police department. Although becoming a police officer is not a typical career choice for frum young adults leaving college or yeshiva, some of Newman’s friends and acquaintances did express interest in being part of the reserves. Meanwhile, police department employees in the training division didn’t realize that there were Orthodox Jews who might be interested in pursuing reserve training. Thus, Newman facilitated the collaborative effort with both to formulate this new program’s parameters.
The LAPD is excited to reach out to our community – a pool of people with appealing demographics. “They are doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and not just looking for excitement in their life!” said Newman, explaining that the LAPD has a hard time getting qualified reserves “who can get through the whole training, have no felony convictions, no drug problems, and the like.” Out of one hundred reservist applicants, only a handful gets selected. Further, the LAPD is in dire need of reservists; there are only about 400 reserve officers now. They’d like to have 2000 on board.
With more Jewish reservists, Newman believes community members will feel safer, and the frum community will be better helped by officers who understand our community. Also, said Newman, “in today’s day and age, other than protecting the community they [reservists] want to protect themselves.” According to crime statistics, there has been a small uptick in violent crime in the West Bureau (which includes Pico, La Brea, Hollywood and so on) by 1.7% compared to last year. However, property crime is down slightly from last year.
Lieutenant Darnell Davenport, officer in charge of reserves and youth education, explained that this completely volunteer opportunity, “can be rewarding and exciting, and there’s nothing [no volunteer work] out there like this one.” About 60 men and women attended the informational meeting held on Thursday, February 25th, and about half of those in attendance, including three women, are planning to enroll in the program that begins with a comprehensive written exam on March 10, 2016, at the Ahmanson Recruit Training Center.
Although the reserve program has existed in L.A. since 1947, Davenport explained that this is the first time it has targeted the Orthodox Jewish community. “This is what makes it unusual, but the belief is we will do it with other communities as well that aren’t represented in significant numbers. Without a representation of communities in the department, communication is diminished.” The reserve officers can communicate with the police officers and understand not only the needs of the community but also the bureaucracy of the department. According to Davenport, they can “bridge the disconnect that can sometimes happens, and we can better help that community.”
Reserve officers can function at one of three levels within the reserve system; the department is looking for reservists to serve in Level 1 or Level 2. With this training, they will carry guns, drive police cars, answer radio calls, respond to suspicious activity, give traffic citations, etc. “You won’t be able to distinguish them from any other police officers,” said Darnell.
A reservist can reach Level 1 after nine months of training; Level 2 after seven months. “My expectation is that they will work in the communities where they live.” Once trained, reserve officers commit to serve at least one ten-hour shift per month. There is no conflict with Shabbos and yom tovim, and professionals can volunteer in areas where they will comfortable; for example, lawyers can work with detectives and look into criminal cases for their reserve duty.
Once this program is in place, Newman envisions creating an even safer L.A. “The long-term objective is to get enough reserves in the community to set up a parallel program where they [reservists] can protect critical sites.” Right now, said Newman, “It is very hard to protect at every possible place that might be targeted. We are more reactive.”
If you are interested in joining or learning more, call the Reserve Hotline: 310-342-3160, Monday through Friday between 7am and 3pm. Tell the officer that you are with the Jewish Community.