More police officers could soon be on the streets in Boynton Beach, only they'll be volunteers.
The police department is revamping its reserve officer program.
The change could lead to more peace of mind for residents like Regina Horne. Burglars broke into more than a dozen cars at her Boynton Beach apartment complex parking lot earlier this month.
"I'm sleeping a lot lighter now," the mother explains. "Every little sound, I'm up like what was that?"
As part of a organizational change this summer, Chief Jeffrey Katz brought former Ocean Ridge police Chief Chris Yannuzzi back to Boynton Beach as captain of the reserve program.
A reserve officer is an umbrella term for two types of officers: a part-time officer and an auxiliary officer.
Yannuzzi says both types attend the police academy, go through background and psychological tests, are trained alongside regular Boynton Beach police officers, carry a gun, and can arrest you.
A part-time officer has spent more time in the police academy and is allowed to work by themselves. An auxiliary officer must partner with a full-time officer when on patrol.
The officers are unpaid. They are required to work 20 hours a month, including training. The city pays for their uniforms and worker's compensation insurance.
Yannuzzi calls the reserve program a "force multiplier." Which means, for example, a reserve officer can take a report about a car which was broken into, freeing a full-time officer to go on the road. The more reserve officers the department has, the more ground it can cover.
"It allows a regular officer to focus on more pressing issues, more involved issues, investigations," Yannuzzi points out.
The department currently has seven reserve officers. Yannuzzi wants to add more, saying about 20 or more would be a reasonable number for the department.
He sees them mostly working crowd control during events, helping after a hurricane, establishing perimeters when searching for suspects, and directing traffic. But they can go on patrol.
"You don't want any mistakes to happen," Horne says expressing some uneasiness about giving an unpaid volunteer the same credentials as a full-time officer.
But she has faith in the training and thinks the positives outweigh the negatives. She hopes more officers on the roads will make burglars think twice.
Yannuzzi says another positive of an expanded reserve program is having a pool of candidates who could become full-time officers.
"The secondary benefit is it builds a bullpen, or farm team, for any future openings," he explains, using a baseball comparison.
Lantana, Ocean Ridge, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, and Florida Highway Patrol all use reserve officer programs.
If you're interested in becoming a reserve officer, call or email Capt. Chris Yannuzzi at 561-742-6194 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You do not need to be a Boynton Beach resident to apply.