Isle of Palms considers reserve officer program for police department

Published: Nov. 18, 2019 at 7:09 PM EST
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ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Isle of Palms is considering a reserve officer program with the police department.

Under the program, trained volunteers would perform law enforcement duties. It’s something that multiple other departments are already doing in the Charleston area.

Police Chief Kevin Cornett says the town is considering bringing back the program because a former officer who resigned for personal reasons expressed an interest in coming back to volunteer.

"It was a great fit for me, he's got years of experience, he's got crime scene experience as a crime scene technician so why not give that person an opportunity to volunteer their time and give back to our community," Cornett said.

The police department has a shortage of five officers and has about 15 to 17 on staff right now, according to Cornett.

City council will have to approve the public safety committee's request to begin a reserve program. They are expected to vote on it at the council meeting on Tuesday evening.

"It never hurts to have more people to come out and help," Cornett said. "We have a lot of events especially during the summer where there are a lot of people on the island. Anytime we can get more people involved to help us, we're happy to have that."

There was a police officer shortage when Cornett was appointed as chief in June. He says even if there wasn't a shortage he would still make the proposal for the program.

According to state law, a reserve officer can't replace full-time police officer positions or other staff.

"What they do is when we're busy we can bank on another person that's volunteering their time and coming out and they have to do so many hours," Cornett said. "So we know they're going to be here, they are going to ride, they are going to help us to enforce laws, to keep people safe. It just gives us another body to accomplish that mission."

According to the Reserve Officer Program that city council will consider, it's a cost effective way to supply additional resources.

Reserve officers aren't paid a salary, but there are costs associated with bringing them on including uniform, equipment, worker's compensation and more.

Cornett says a reserve officer must go through training and police ride-alongs. They also must be accompanied by a police officer at all times.

Cornett says the police officer shortage has caused a minimal increase in overtime. Other units like detectives, livability and command staff along with Cornett and the police captain have been helping to cover the needs. He says they want to ensure that they are not over working the team and they get ample time to spend with family.

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