We received a very good question from an agency regarding reserve officer FTO.  I asked Sgt. David Harris to respond to this question.

Question: Do you have information about liability in reference to reserve officers/deputies receiving a 12 month FTO program vs. the standard full time officer/deputy FTO program?


Thank you for your question regarding reserve officer programs.  The short answer is, it all depends.

Reserve Officers have been considered by some as “walking liability.”  Failure To Train is the biggest issue with Reserve Officers.

Reserve Officers are required to attend the state  (Reserve Officer) academy and receive basic training.  Many agencies offer a modified (shortened) FTO Program for their reserves, and then require them to ride with an experienced officer.  As long as the Reserve is under the direct control of an experienced officer, liability can be somewhat reduced.

A larger issue comes with allowing Reserve Officers to ride alone in a solo status.  With my agency, our Reserve Program participation has dwindled down quite a bit.  We do allow qualified Reserve Offices to operate alone, but they are required to go through our regular (12 week) FTO Program.  This can cause some problems for the Reserve as many of them have outside jobs, which limit the time they can dedicate to the program.  Nonetheless, there are time restrictions for completion of our FTO Program.

All of our Reserve Officers are required to attend the Department’s yearly in-service training as well as other specific training also required by the Department, such as firearms qualifications, etc.

Agencies continually strive to reduce their liability by providing their employees with the best possible training and equipment available.  With Reserve Officers, because of the limited amount of time they are actually on the road, their individual training can be much less than ideal.

I suggest you speak with your legal advisors as well, to get their opinion as to the liability of a Reserve Officer.  Once you understand what their concerns are, you may be able to address them.

In my experience, the big issue is always the fact that agencies do not require the same amount of training for reserves as we do our “regular” officers.  Reserve Officers are in uniform and on the street.  They can be forced to make decisions on their own.  They are viewed to have the same authority as a regular officer and therefore should have the same training.

In the event the reserve officer if forced to make a decision, take an action or not take an action, the question will be:
Did they receive the proper training in order to make that decision, or did we simply “Fail To Train” this officer?

I hope this helps.

Sgt. David Harris

PS.  I encourage discussion on this topic.  Please register to participate in this discussion.

Last modified: April 1, 2020