Almost a pursuit…
One night, we had gotten into a pursuit with a man driving a stolen motorcycle. Traffic was light and the suspect was flying down one of the main streets at a high rate of speed. He managed to make a sharp turn onto the freeway in an effort to evade us. I came into the same turn a tad too fast and had to brake hard; really hard or we were going to crash. The car skidded across a wheelchair ramp, across a sidewalk, across a dirt shoulder and came to a stop between a streetlight and traffic signal with about a foot to spare on either side. As the dust and tire smoke filtered past us, we realized that somehow, I had avoided doing any damage to the car nor had I hit anything. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and Tim summed it up by saying, “Well, as they say in basketball, no harm no foul.” We got back on the road and resumed the pursuit. That’s the way we worked together.
As to the bad guy, though we were not able to apprehend this guy that because he dumped the motorcycle and fled on foot. About a year later we stopped him for a minor traffic violation and discover a warrant for his arrest; it was for evading a police officer.
Still, for all the good things that Tim and I accomplished together, there were still those elements in the department that felt a reserve officer should be assigned to take care of mundane tasks that many officers find tedious, such as operating our holding facility, booking prisoners and transporting them to county jail. Also, I felt there was an undercurrent of resentment at the successes Tim and I achieved working together. Usually, it was from officers with less than admirable work ethics or who were stuck in another less contemporary age of policing.
On one particular “Cruise Night”, it happened to be Halloween. Tim and I decided to both wear a hat that had a pig nose, tail and ears as a way of improving our image and rapport among the multitudes of young people, whom were most often the recipients of our numerous traffic citations. It did so beyond our best expectations. However, a very “traditional” minded sergeant felt otherwise when our attempt at bettering community relations was brought to his attention. We both received some “counseling” from him for crossing the line in decorum and demonstrating conduct unbecoming a police officer. There came the day that these negative elements all came together and someone in the upper echelons of management made the decision it would be better if Tim and I didn’t work together so much.
It was decided, Tim could be of better use working our “jail” (a temporary holding facility); after all, he was just a reserve. Eventually, common sense and less rigid minds prevailed and it wasn’t long before we were “allowed” to work together.
Aboudara assigned as emergency contact
As partners are wont to do, I designated Tim to be person to notify my wife should I be seriously hurt or killed in the line of duty; little did I know he would have to do exactly just that for me a few years later. Near the end of May in 1986, I was training a new officer and showing her how to use moving radar. An inexperienced teenage driver lost control of his vehicle while adjusting his car’s radio and slammed head-on into my side of the patrol car at over fifty miles an hour. Among my many injuries, I sustained serious head trauma and lost consciousness. I later learned that many of those officers who had responded to the scene had concerns as to whether I was going to survive. Someone called Tim, who then had to do a job no one would envy–notifying my wife. There is no hiding the nature of such a visit when fellow officer shows up at the front door unannounced, late at night. I could not have placed my family in more capable hands; my partner handled everything in an exemplary manner.
The end of reserves at PPD
The end of reserves at PPD
Despite Tim’s and the other reserve officers’ stellar record of service to the Department, in the 1990’s, those who looked down upon them began to prevail once more. This time liability fears, training and alleged financial constraints were the reasons given to gut the reserve program. To the best of my knowledge, no one in management had really made much of an effort to find solutions and keep it running. Stunned, Tim and a few other senior Reserve Officers were forced into “retirement”; they were given a hearty hand clasp, a nifty certificate and a handsome plaque. The younger Reserve Officers, still working toward their Level One status, were essentially told that their services were no longer needed. With a silent whimper, an important part of the department disappeared.
The invaluable role reserves played at PPD
Many a full time officer had got their start in the reserve program. The reserve program had been an excellent recruiting tool for full time service at a time when qualified prospects were few in number. Those that made the transition were better, more polished officers because of that experience. The program was a conduit to the community as to the workings of police department. It was a valuable source of extra manpower for special events. When the town was hit by a disastrous flood, it was the reserve officers who volunteered to help an overwhelmed patrol force, some coming in even while their own homes were at risk. When animal rights activists protested at a local beef processing facility, it was the reserve officers who manned the booking station in the event the situation turned nasty. When the Department began running DWI Checkpoints, it was the reserve officers who volunteered to assist with some of the more routine tasks.
Reserve programs in other jurisdictions
Though no longer a member of the Petaluma Police, I do know that they eventually began a volunteer Reserve Community Service Officer Program. It is my understanding that they assist in many administrative tasks, supplementing an overwhelmed civilian staff that has been pared to the bone by budget cuts. Whether they ever go back to having a Reserve Police Officer program in the future remains to be seen. The largest agency in California, the Los Angeles Police Department, has been running a reserve program for generations and now has over 650 active reserve officers. They are still one of many police agencies that still count on Reserve Officers. I suspect that when the need for supplemental man power in an era of shrinking budgets outweighs the liability fears having such a program, my old department might revisit such a notion.
A new day dawning for reserves
Shortly after I had written the prior paragraph, I received the monthly informational bulletin from my old department, which had recently hired a new Chief of Police. After several months of settling into the job and learning about some of the issues facing the Petaluma Police Department, Chief Patrick Williams has apparently begun to implement his vision as the direction the department should head. Among some of the new programs described in the bulletin was this; “For the first time since the early 1990’s, Petaluma Police Department will begin screening applicants for the position of Police Reserve.”
Born in Providence, Rhode Island but raised in Southern California.
Upon graduating California State University, Los Angeles, Gerry
enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
After leaving active duty in 1979, he worked for the Sonoma County
Sheriff’s Office. From 1980 until his retirement in 1996, he was a patrol
officer, traffic officer and at Petaluma Police Department.
He’s married, has a daughter and lives in Sonoma County, California.