Reserve officers stepping up in Kennewick

Reserve officers stepping up in Kennewick
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Volunteer police officers are tackling pressing issues in kennewick the same way paid officers are.

Judy Benenate walks her Kennewick neighborhood with a bible study group. They like to keep an eye on what's going on.

She says, "More eyes on the street. That's always better."

Over the weekend, a drive-by shooting happened nearby on Beech Street.

"They came by to get some information yesterday. The detectives were here," Judy continues.

Kennewick Police detained five people. Judy was surprised to learn a couple of the officers involved in those arrests are actually police volunteers.

She raises her brow, "They were really impressive."

The volunteers, are known as reserve officers. They're taking a bigger role than you might think. Kennewick PD has 1.2 officers for every 1,000 people living in the city. Compare that to the state average.. 1.5 officers per 1,000.

"Sometimes our man power gets stretched very thin," Sgt. Ken Lattin tells KEPR.

Which is what reserve officers can alleviate. Kennewick currently has four on board. They drive the same car, wear the same uniform.
It was volunteers keeping an eye on suspects while paid police interviewed them.

"They help us out enormously throughout the year," Lattin says.

Reserve officers go through the same training as a regular officer.
They can write tickets, patrol the neighborhood and make arrests.
Equal protection in Judy's book.

"Volunteer is just as good as a police officer. The more eyes we have out there, we can help more people. These drive-bys won't happen," says Judy.

A free aid in helping police clean up Kennewick's streets. There are currently five openings for paid officers for the Kennewick Police Department. A preliminary test for screening is being offered in a couple weeks. They are also always willing to take on more trained volunteers.