Blaine police reserve academy seeks candidates

Published on Thu, Mar 13, 2008 by Jack Kintner

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Blaine police reserve academy seeks candidates

By Jack Kintner

The Blaine Police Department does a credible job of maintaining law and order inside the city limits, a demanding job that’s complicated, to put it mildly, by having one of the country’s three busiest border crossings on the city’s northern edge, potentially providing what could be a big-city assignment to a small-town department.

To put this into perspective, one could say that of the three American towns with the most people crossing between the United States and Canada, Blaine is also the only one without its own NFL team.
This reality demands a consistently high level of performance all out of proportion to the department’s size and necessarily meager small-town budget.

Despite its folksy, down home image, led by one-time volunteer city dog catcher Mike Haslip who climbed through the ranks to eventually become chief, its personnel often finds themselves working alongside people from the over two dozen different kinds of federal law enforcement agencies working in and around the busy Blaine port of entry, from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Secret Service.

It’s a measure of the department’s professionalism that these federal agencies treat the Blaine police force as peers, just as they do those from the other two busy ports in Detroit and Buffalo.

For example, the Blaine police department shares dispatch duties including 911 referrals with the Border Patrol, in part because years ago the Blaine police department was the border patrol. But in these days of heightened security, Blaine’s police department has had to meet increased demands for services while seeing its manpower decrease, going from 14 to 13 paid officers in the current (2008) city budget.

They do it with what chief Haslip calls commissioned volunteer reserve patrol officers, or reserves for short. In most respects, including carrying firearms and making traffic stops, they do much the same job as regular paid commissioned officers.

Their academy is just as long and their screening and qualifications are just as rigorous. And right now they could use eight more to go along with the seven now on the job, which would fill the roster to the 15-man limit. You could be one of them.

Reserve officer Jim West said recently that he never set out to become a cop. But shortly before he and his wife Cheryl left Chicago for retirement in Blaine two years ago last summer, a friend told him to “look up a guy named Ron Leach. I did and before I knew it Ron had me eating breakfast with former Blaine police chief and current Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.”

Elfo told him about volunteer programs with the sheriff’s department and mentioned that Blaine also had a reserve. West got involved quickly. An electrical engineer by training who sold high-voltage electrical equipment to major utilities, West is now the reserve’s administrative officer, sharing the unit’s leadership duties with fellow reserve patrolman and operations officer Jay Punches.

The unit is under the supervision of Blaine K-9 handler and nine-year Blaine policeman Mike Munden. “We had 14 regular officers and 15 reserves when I arrived in 1999,” Munden said, “and we’d like to keep working toward getting our strength back up to numbers like that.”

To that end last year he and officer Ryan King organized and taught a police academy curriculum that put the last crop of volunteers through a rigorous 320-hour training schedule that met two evenings a week plus weekends for five months. They covered the same subject areas as the regular 720-hour curriculum at the Washington State Law Enforcement Academy, including criminal law and procedures; traffic enforcement; cultural awareness; communication skills; emergency vehicle operations course (EVOC); firearms; crisis intervention; patrol procedures; criminal investigation and defensive tactics.

Twelve graduated in January of 2007. Two of West’s classmates, Jake Ferrar and Andy Anorbes, later tested for open positions as regular commissioned officers on the Blaine police force and were hired.
Munden said that volunteers like West are just as valuable in that they tend not to have career ambitions beyond the local department. After graduating, volunteers are expected to put in 16 hours a month as they gradually work their way through a rigid set of on-the-job training requirements, culminating in being qualified for solo road patrol, functioning in most ways just like a paid officer.

“Reserves help the department to bridge the gap between the level of protection which the community would like to have and expects, and the level which city government is able to afford,” said Haslip. “Reserve police officers transport arrestees to jail, so that the one police officer who is on shift can remain in the city on patrol, and they can provide a second police car on the street to patrol for violations and to be available to the public. Reserves provide traffic control, conduct follow-up on cases, and backup paid officers to increase their safety and the community’s wellbeing. Reserve officers do not replace regular paid personnel, they support and enhance the department’s efforts,” Haslip said.

For more information contact the Blaine Police Department or go to www.cityofblaine.com, or for information on basic qualifications at www.publicsafetytesting.com.