Palestine builds reserve force

EAST PALESTINE – The creation of a reserve police unit is making headway, and Chief Kevin Dickey hopes the end result is more involvement from local people.

Dickey began considering the unit shortly after becoming chief last year. The department has never had an all-volunteer program.

An auxiliary force does exist, although those officers are paid and work on a part-time basis, he explained.

The reserve unit is designed, he said, to provide an opportunity for people who think they may be interested in joining law enforcement to try it out without attending the police academy.

Reserve officers would not be required to earn peace officer certification and would not have arrest powers. They would be required to wear designated uniforms and perform duties assigned by the chief or commanding officer that would assist the department.

Dickey said a reserve unit is beneficial because it will create a pool of trained applicants for future part-time and full-time positions.

The chief has previously said the department needs more part-time officers.

“Qualified candidates for part-time are not always easy to find,” he said.

Should a reserve officer decide to pursue a position on the force, peace officer training would then be required, he explained.

Reserve officers must be at least 18 years old and while Dickey is hoping for local involvement, officers would not need to be East Palestine residents.

“We are looking at drawing and keeping our local youth,” he said.

Officers would be required to meet the department’s physical standards, pass pre-employment drug testing and a background investigation, and must be a high school graduate or have their GED.

Once on the unit, reserve officers would participate in all required reserve police events and accompany regular officers on routine patrol as directed by the chief.

Dickey said most area police departments have some form of volunteer unit, including Salem, Columbiana and the sheriff’s office to name a few.

The Columbiana and Salem auxiliary officers work on a non-paid basis, he said.

The legislation creating the new unit passed a first reading at last week’s Village Council meeting. Three readings are required before it can take effect, if passed.

Council also approved adding a new officer to the auxiliary force. Mayor Margo Zuch administered the oath of office to Leetonia resident Richard Burbick.

Burbick is a diesel mechanic who graduated from the Kent State Police Academy in 2010. He joined the Columbiana auxiliary in 2011 and Brookfield Township reserve unit in 2012.

Burbick said he is looking to get into local law enforcement on a regular basis.

Dickey said Burbick will be a “tremendous asset to the post” and will begin training this week. He is the second officer added to the auxiliary force since Dickey was named chief and will join the roster of roughly 10.

Dickey said the auxiliary force cannot exceed 15 officers, and the department is “really selective” regarding the addition of officers.

A copy of the department’s overall activity report for April was provided to council.

According to the report, officers handled four traffic crashes and issued 30 traffic citations. Parking tickets and other fines collected amounted to $1,805.