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D.C. police call on reserves to boost community presence

Amid the bustle of the late night bar scene around the U Street corridor in Northwest Washington early Saturday morning was a notable amount of police activity.

Side streets saw flickering blue lights of patrol cars on traffic stops. Sidewalks saw officers on foot beat. An alcohol enforcement vehicle anchored the operation at 14th and U streets.

The high-visibility effort was the first act in a move by police officials to incorporate their volunteer Reserve Corps of officers into targeted patrol assignments the rest of this year.

The plan is called the Reserve Corps Focused Initiative. Officially scheduled to begin March 19, it will spread dozens of part-time, volunteer officers into districts across the city, said Cmdr. Richard Southby, head of the Reserve Corps.

"We'll have an increased police presence throughout all the districts," said Southby, an Australian native who has volunteered as a D.C. police officer for 20 years. In his real life, he is known as Dr. Southby, the professor of global health and Executive Dean Emeritus at George Washington University.

D.C. Reserve Cmdr. Richard Southby, left, with Reserve Sgt. Christopher Lively during a deployment at 14th and U streets NW on Saturday morning. (Clarence Williams/Post)

Southby was one of 27 reserve officers and officials who were assigned to help sworn officers to increase presence during the busy weekend party crowd around U Street.

The Reserve Corps includes more than 100 trained volunteers who help with traffic, crowd control, patrol and administrative duties. They are required to work a minimum of 16 hours a month.

They wear the same uniforms as sworn officers, and are divided into two categories -- Level I or II -- depending on their experience and training. Level I officers are armed with service weapons and have full arrest powers, while Level II officers carry only police batons, cellphones and a pepper-type spray; they need the presence of a sworn officer to make arrests.

Reserve officers typically are assigned to one of the city's seven patrol districts and those assignments won't change after March 19. However, officials plan to pull from those ranks to form a large team of the reserve officers during weekend deployments, add to police presence in high traffic areas in a single patrol district.

"This is bringing the reserves together in a focused way in areas where there's a need for visibilty," Southby said.

The advantages are many for paid police officials. Cmdr. Jacob Kishter, head of the 3rd District, was first to take advantage of the effort last weekend. He said the added boost around the bars gave his officers more opportunity to handle calls for service and other duties in Patrol Service Area 305.

"It just helps to have more visibility in the U Street corridor," Kishter said in an interview, "It frees up sworn officers to go out into the neighborhoods."

-- Clarence Williams

By Clarence Williams  |  March 2, 2010; 6:10 AM ET
Categories:  Clarence Williams , The District  
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Posted by: Hotelguest0 | March 2, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Very Good Idea...What about HStreet Ward 5 0r 6

Posted by: dcynnep | March 2, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Actually, the terminology in an article for a lay audience is misleading as Reserve Officers are sworn law enforcement officers. The clearest distinction is Reserve Officer and Career Officer.

Also "while Level II officers carry only police batons, cellphones and a pepper-type spray" is not false information. Level II officers carry the same equipment with the exception of a service weapon.

Posted by: streff | March 2, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

What about Ward 7 and 8 -- there's lots of activities in those areas. Anybody ever heard of gang rivalries. We would think that more police volunteers would be sent out there, too. DC is a big, wide metropolitan area with many crimes going on simultaneously all over the place - not just the U Street corridors.

Posted by: periodot | March 2, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

The reserve officers are used to supplement the career force, not to replace them. The problems in the club zones are a special, periodic problem that can be ameliorated with some increased visibility on weekends when the crowds swell. The systemic problems, like gang activity should be addressed by a permanent effort. More citizens should join the MPD Reserve Corps and patrol their own neighborhoods.

Posted by: ltrcw | March 3, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

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