Albemarle County police are officially getting some extra help on the streets. Wednesday, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved plans for an auxiliary force - a team of fully trained volunteers. While this is welcomed news for many, some are urging the county not to get lax on doing more.
The Police Department says that if it had the choice of bringing on extra staff, it would. But officers also say they have to address the here and now.
"It's a win-win for the department and the community,” said Lt. Mike Wagner of the Albemarle County Police Department.
Albemarle County police are ecstatic that plans to bring on an auxiliary force are reality and say it's a cost-effective way to get some much needed support.
"Currently with our staffing levels struggling a little bit we want to be able to provide our day-to-day services, but also we have special events or weather incidents where we could use auxiliary staff,” said Wagner.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved plans to bring on up to 18 volunteers to help paid officers with crowd control at large events and even have duties related to crime prevention and administrative needs.
But during public comment a lingering issue resurfaced for the county.
"In my opinion you don't learn to be a police officer in a classroom," said John Martin, an Albemarle resident.
Martin has lived in the county for 15 years and acknowledges that the extra support is good, but he also says there are just some things only full-time police can provide.
"Experience. 40 hours a week. 40 hours a week or more,” said Martin.
Martin is concerned that the county will put plans to hire on hold, but supervisors say they are committed to hiring.
"But that commitment has been on paper for quite some time and nothing has been done to fulfill that commitment,” said Martin.
Police say, when it comes to the auxiliary, one doesn't replace the other.
"In no way shape or form is the auxiliary force designed to hierarch our current staff. Our current staff, they work hard, they have specialized training, and it's their livelihood," said Wagner.
Police say hiring staff is their top priority and they will continue to push for that. Meanwhile, they hope to start filling positions immediately, and will have applications available for both armed and unarmed auxiliary positions soon.
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