- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When out-of-town visitors traveled through Arlington County and their car broke down, they were not stranded for long. Arlington County Auxiliary Police Sgt. Mark Pfeifer was on the scene providing assistance. He helped them obtain a rental car and got them back on the road quickly.

Sgt. Pfeifer is one of 17 unpaid citizens who volunteer with the Auxiliary Police Unit, which works under the Special Operations Division of the Arlington County Police Department. He has been working in this capacity for five years. In his full-time paid position, he is in charge of a small technology consulting company. As an auxiliary officer, he often can be seen on Arlington streets engaging in activities that include patrolling bike trails and roads.

“Its completely different from my day job,” the sergeant says. “I get to be out with the public.”

The Auxiliary Police Unit, formed in 1942, serves as a supplemental unit to paid police officers in the county. The auxiliary officers are trained and equipped by the police department to assist with patrolling parks and roads, controlling traffic, enforcing parking regulations, assisting motorists, helping with funeral processions and providing added security to malls. The auxiliaries also aid in handling crowds and other duties at special events that include community festivals, parades, street fairs and concerts.

Additionally, they are involved with installation and inspection of child safety seats, school safety programs and crime-prevention activities. Auxiliary officers also work sobriety checkpoints. Two auxiliary officers are certified breathalyzer operators, which allows them to conduct blood alcohol tests.

Their uniforms are distinguishable from those worn by paid, sworn full-time officers. Auxiliary officers do not carry guns or Tasers, but they are equipped with handcuffs, an expandable baton, pepper spray and a police radio. Their arrest authority applies only when they are authorized to be in service and used only when exigent circumstances exist, no sworn officer is available and they have briefed and sought approval of the on-duty watch commander.

“Having auxiliaries perform any duty that would otherwise have to be staffed by a sworn officer is an immediate cost savings for the county, Arlington Police Chief M. Douglas Scott says. “Often, our auxiliary officers will fill assignments that would require an officer working overtime to fill, so there is an additional savings in that scenario. When we went into a hiring freeze in the fall, we also cut our current overtime budget significantly. Our auxiliary officers have stepped up during this period and have increased their volunteer hours.”

Lt. Heather Hurlock, who donates as many as 60 hours per week, leads the unit. She selects the auxiliary officers and is interested in candidates who understand the concept of volunteerism, can make a time commitment, are not “wannabe cops” and understand the risks associated with the position. Candidates must pass a polygraph and physical and drug-screening tests.

“One of the biggest reasons our auxiliary program is as successful as it has been is a direct result of the outstanding leadership of Auxiliary Police Lt. Heather Hurlock. Lt. Hurlock volunteers countless hours to the police department providing oversight, recruitment and training for the auxiliary program,” Chief Scott says.

“She is the goddess of our auxiliaries,” says Officer Henry Buchofer, a 16-year veteran of the county department.

The citizen volunteers are professional career people from various backgrounds, including the military, education, business and government, and have a variety of talents. Auxiliary officers are required to provide a minimum of 180 hours of unpaid service per year to the department. They receive instruction about emergency vehicle operation, patrol skills, report writing, defensive tactics and other vital skills.

Following a stint with the Air Force, Adam Green served as an Arlington auxiliary officer. “If you’re not committed, it’s not the job for you,” he says. Since his community college days, Mr. Green wanted to be a police officer. He fulfilled that desire by subsequently joining the department as a paid officer where he has been for the last eight years.

In her full-time job, Kim Malinowski is a teacher who works with disabled students in Fairfax County. Since 2001, she has been an Arlington auxiliary officer and spends most of her time working with the child-safety-seat program. “So many of us have proven we’re able to do it,” she says.

“From my point of view, they are of tremendous benefit to us. They are a bit of a force multiplier,” says Police Capt. Brian Berke.

“It gives the citizens a way to see the police in a light other than enforcement all the time. We have the cream of the crop when we get the auxiliary police,” says Detective Roger Estes, who has been employed by the department for 36 years.

The auxiliary police have proven to be a valuable resource to public safety in Arlington County. “We are a better police department because of the services provided by our dedicated auxiliary officers,” Chief Scott says. “To say they are committed community volunteers is simply an understatement.”

c Karen L. Bune, a consultant with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime and Office of Juvenile Justice programs, is an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Marymount University.

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