There were no police at the time the Constitution was written and the Bill of Rights ratified. Police as we know them didn’t come into being until a couple of decades later, in England. There, giving the police power was resisted as an infringement on local power for a considerable time, and police only gradually spread across the United States. Police forces have taken over many of the functions of local militias and are, for the most part, locally controlled. The closest modern equivalent to the militia . . .
of the Constitutional era are reserve deputies. While the militias traditionally elected their officers, sheriffs are elected by county voters. Police chiefs aren’t elected, but are appointed by people who are, putting them at an unfortunate remove from responsibility to the electorate.
Sheriffs have traditionally been able to appoint deputies at will. In northern Wisconsin we called them “dollar a year deputies” because the nominal stipulation was that they were paid a dollar a year. Deputies have arrest powers, but dollar a year deputies rarely exercise them, wisely choosing to avoid the type of entanglements that come with acting outside of emergency situations.
I would bet a pretty penny that reservists commit far fewer crimes per capita than police do, just as concealed carry permit holders do. It makes sense; people who are reservists or CCW holders tend to be self-selected as the most responsible group in the community. I suspect that much the same could have been said of militia members who took their duties seriously.
In the United States, police, deputies, or other officers who have HR 218/Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) status, may legally carry concealed firearms throughout the United States and its territories, including the District of Columbia. This is an avenue for people to exercise an effective national right to carry. It applies to many places that are prohibited to people with ordinary concealed carry permits, though those exceptions are dwindling.
For example, all states now allow people to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol. Some states allow officers, but not permit holders, to carry in bars. HR 218 status is valid in places that don’t have any reciprocity with other states, and in the few federal enclaves where concealed carry permits are not allowed, such as most military bases or the District of Columbia.
A small town in Michigan is being investigated for no apparent reason, but that it has a large number of reserve police, about a 100, for a population of 290.
Earlier this month, The Detroit News reported the auxiliary officers donate so much money that they cover the $38,000 police budget and some other government expenses.
Their status as reserves allows them to bring their guns into no-weapon zones such as bars and ballparks, according to state law.
Critics accused the officers of trading donations for the looser weapon rules.
Police Chief Rob Reznick, who denied there’s any quid pro quo, said he has nothing to hide. “We welcome the investigation,” he said. “We will cooperate fully.”
It’s not clear that the reservists mentioned are HR 218 qualified. However, they are issued a badge, an ID, and a gun and may have a department willing to back them up. How would any enforcer throughout the nation know that they were not?
Before Wisconsin passed their shall issue law in November of 2011, they had no provision for concealed carry by ordinary citizens. Often overlooked, however, was the ability of sheriffs to appoint deputies, and police chiefs, reservists.
Far back in antiquity, I was a police reservist for a time. It was a position that I actively sought for the ability to carry a concealed weapon. A good friend of mine, a woman, obtained her “dollar a year deputy” card by going to the sheriff and telling him that she was going to carry…so give her a card and make her legal. He did just that.
Over the years, some states have enacted legislation making it more difficult to become a deputy or police reservist. Some require that the applicant attend a peace officer academy which can be a large investment in time and money, and may require political appointment in some areas. Many areas elect constables. In sparsely populated rural areas this office might be obtained with little effort.
While it’s likely that national reciprocity for carry permits will become law at some point (several attempts have been made, even during the Obama administration), the potential of becoming a reserve officer or deputy offers an interesting possibility for those who travel extensively and who wish to exercise their right to self defense during those travels.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.