Putting on a police uniform automatically lends people an air of authority. Handing them a badge and a gun gives them real power. In some places around the country, individuals have been given all the trappings of police officers, but with none of the training and very little oversight. That can be a serious problem.
It has been in Michigan. A Detroit Free Press investigation found that at least 3,000 reserve or volunteer officers serve in Michigan with no formal system of oversight in place. The legislature called on the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to adopt screening and training requirements, but it has yet to do so. Individual departments may set their own standards, but the newspaper found evidence of abuse by reserve officers, as well as examples of convicted felons and white supremacists serving in uniform. “The active-duty officers have always been troubled by the lack of standards,” says Jim Curran of the Michigan Association of Police Organizations.