Volunteering for your local police department is a great way to serve the community while gaining relevant work experience to kick start your career.
For example, the Milwaukee Police Department says this about its Reserve Police Officer Unit: “Many Reserve Police Officers use this volunteer position as on-the-job work experience prior to testing for a full-time police career. At least half the regular patrol officers had previous experience as a reserve police officer before choosing police work as their full-time careers.”
Volunteer opportunities with law enforcement departments can also be valuable for those interested in other criminal justice careers. Some departments also offer programs that would be great experience for those interested in victim advocacy, social work, office administration, communications, crime prevention and other professional fields.
Reserve Police Officer Programs
Although reserve police officers may be volunteers, they are still selected based on merit and qualifications, as well as testing and background checks similar to hiring full-time sworn officers. They also must successfully complete training offered by the particular law enforcement department they will be serving for.
Roles, responsibilities and time commitment will naturally vary by agency. For example, some reserve officers are called in during disasters or unusual emergencies and to help patrol community events; whereas in other cases, they work the beat alongside a regular cop and perform many of the same duties. “Because of the standards, the selection process and the training program for Reserve Officers, their acceptance by regular members of the Department has been extremely favorable,” states the Los Angeles Police Department of their Reserve Officer Police Program. “Some Patrol Officers have even requested to be assigned to work with a particular Reserve Officer.”
Other Volunteer Opportunities
Examples of other volunteer opportunities with law enforcement departments include:
- Victim Advocacy (i.e. volunteering for the Domestic Violence or Crisis Response Team)
- Helping out at the station (i.e. conducting follow-up research, contacting witnesses, assisting with police reports and clerical duties)
- Neighborhood Watch
- Assisting Detectives
- Youth Programs (helping out with department-run youth programs such as tutoring, sports and other activities)
- Radio Communications
It’s worth getting in touch with your local law enforcement agency, even if they do not advertise volunteer opportunities on their website. Contact the station and tell them about your interests. Together you might come up with an internship or workplace experience that benefits you and them.