Reserve Force History

Origin and Background

In 1950, the 81st Congress of the United States of America passed the Public Law #920, entitled "The Civil Defense Act of 1950" authorizing a Federal Civil Defense Program. In 1951, the New York State Legislature enacted the "Defense Emergency Act" At the time; there was substantial federal and state concern about a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union and other communist countries. A comprehensive plan was needed to ensure the safety and survival of the citizens of New York in the event of an anticipated or actual nuclear attack. The Act imposes, upon virtually every county in the state, the obligation to recruit, train, equip and discharge auxiliary police officers. 

Article 3 §23 of the Act, Specific requirements in cities and counties, states that each county, except those contained in the city of New York, and each city shall " order to prepare for attack and for the period of rehabilitation and recovery following an attack"  recruit, equip and train auxiliary police or special deputy sheriffs in sufficient number to maintain order and control traffic in the event of an attack and to perform such other police and emergency civil defense functions as may be required during and subsequent to attack.

The Act also provides Worker's Compensation coverage and immunity (Article 9 §113) for negligent acts only when auxiliary police officers are performing duties "relating to civil defense, including but not limited to activities pursuant thereto, in preparation for anticipated attack, during attack, or following attack or false warning thereof, or in connection with an authorized drill or test".

In order to maintain their peace officer status, all Auxiliary Police officers are required by New York State to pass an annual refresher course in the use of force with the straight baton, arrest procedures, and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).


Evolution and Current Scope of Duties  

Today, Auxiliary Police are trained and extensively utilized by police departments for a myriad of activities far outside of the original intent, scope and authorization of the New York State Defense Emergency Act.  In Fitzgibbon, infra, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department found,

" is clear that the contemporary functions of auxiliary police units have evolved beyond those contemplated by the framers of the Act...  ...there is little question that auxiliary police units have been principally deployed in order to assist law enforcement personnel in combating the threat of crime from within, and less so as the statutorily envisaged civilian reserve to be mobilized in preparation for the perceived threat of external invasion or natural disaster."

Today, auxiliary police officers wear uniforms almost identical to regular police, drive police cars which look almost identical to regular police cars and which are equipped with the same emergency lights, sirens and police radios.   Recently, after two New York City Auxiliary Police Officers were shot and killed while on a routine patrol, police departments have begun to outfit auxiliary police officers with bullet resistant vests.  The duties and activities of auxiliary police vary among different police departments and may include the following routine functions not authorized by the Act: