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Auxiliary police are an effective, but shrinking force

By Mary Julius, Enterprise staff writer

From taking part in the search for a young girl kidnapped in the 1960s to walking the downtown beat, auxiliary police Senior Capt. Henry A. Bump has been a familiar face on the streets of Middleboro for a half century.

"He's very dependable and has a wealth of knowledge from his years of work," said Middleboro Sgt. Corey P. Mills, who acts as the liaison between the police chief and the auxiliary police officers in town.

"It's something I like to do," said Bump, 72, of Berkley, who was raised in Middleboro. "I don't want to sit down and watch the grass grow. I want to continue if I can."

Bump, recently honored by Middleboro police for 50 years of service, is part of a shrinking group of auxiliary police officers in the region who volunteer their time — and often pay for their own uniforms and training — to supplement the regular police force. When in uniform, auxiliary officers have the power of arrest, Mills said.

"They are an extra set of eyes and ears to assist us," Mills said. "Their presence is a deterrent. In Middleboro, they pay over $2,000 for their firearms, uniforms and schooling."

The ranks of auxiliary police officers are slowly decreasing as departments, worried about liability and union issues, use more full-time or part-time paid officers.

"They are used less and less," said Chief George J. DiBlasi, executive director of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association. "Liability is clearly an issue. If they get injured, you have to pay for their medical expenses."

In Brockton, Police Chief Paul F. Studenski said the department had a group of auxiliary officers back in the 1970s, but the program was later discontinued.

"There were some problems, and we deemed we were better off in an age of liability not having them," Studenski said.

When four full-time police officers were laid off in Abington last July, about 20 auxiliary officers had to be let go.

"I can't have someone working here when a full-time police officer is laid off," Abington Chief Richard L. Franey said.

Of the four officers laid off, three have gotten other jobs, and the fourth was recently hired back.

"Now that the officers have other jobs, we can entertain thoughts of bringing the auxiliary officers back," Franey said.

Franey said auxiliary officers are an asset to the community.

"They play a vital role, but they can't take an officer's job away," Franey said.

The town of Abington pays auxiliary officers for their training and weapon and they are covered under the town's insurance.

"Sometimes, they buy their own uniform," Franey said. "But as long as they have been assigned by me, they are protected under the town's insurance."

Randolph has about 60 auxiliary police officers who help out at parades, church crossings on Sundays and school patrols on weekends. "There doesn't seem to be any problems with them," Randolph Detective Richard Lucey said.

Auxiliary officers like Middleboro's Bump are not paid when they fill in on town duties, but are compensated for details, such as at road construction sites.

They are different from the part-time special police officers that many small departments, such as Easton, use. "Specials," as they are referred to by other officers, are paid for the work they do, but generally do not receive any benefits.

For many, working for free as an auxiliary officer is a way to get into the law-enforcement career door.

For example, in Whitman, Police Chief John R. Schnyer started out in 1967 as an auxiliary police officer. "I worked my way up," Schnyer said.

Schnyer said his department has about 20 auxiliary officers.

"It's something we've had here over 50 years," Schnyer said. "They're extremely useful and work well to augment our regular department in times of storms and emergencies. We keep them trained to the same level as our reserve, part-time officers."

Over the years, some issues cropped up with the police union over the use of auxiliary officers, but were resolved, Schnyer said.

"It has to be very clear that we don't take work away from regular patrol forces. If we are down an officer, we can't call in an auxiliary officer. But if we have a big snowstorm, and we have called in all available officers, then we can add auxiliary officers," he said.

"Over the years, many auxiliary officers who have assisted our town have gone on to become full-time officers in this community and others," Schnyer said.

Schnyer said the auxiliary officers are insured through the town.

"We make them part of our numbers when we apply for liability insurance," Schnyer said.

In Middleboro, there is a contingent of officers who started volunteering, then landed full-time jobs. There are about 12 officers currently on the force who started as auxiliary police officers, said Mills, a former auxiliary officer himself.

Auxiliary officers can't just walk in the door and hit the streets, several said.

They receive a 160-hour basic-training course at the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Academy in Plymouth, where they are certified as first responders and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

They also receive firearms training and learn about motor vehicle law, criminal law and other related subjects. Each year, they receive 40 hours of updated training, Schnyer said.

When Bump was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1953, Middleboro did not have any auxiliary police officers.

"I was in a CB radio club in town, and we got a letter from Civil Defense saying we needed to have auxiliary police officers in case of emergency," Bump said. "I decided to do it."

Bump came on as an auxiliary officer under Chief William E. Gardner in October 1953.

"There were about 20 of us when we started, but I'm the only one who's still active," said Bump, who is married to Sarah Bump and has two children, Cheryl and Carol Bump, both of Middleboro.

By 1954, the number of auxiliary officers in Middleboro had grown to about 40, Bump said.

"We took care of all the parades, the 4-H fair and the graduation at the high school," Bump said.

Over the years, he has helped on several searches for residents who wandered away from nursing homes or got lost in the woods.

"We also help out on Halloween, at the canoe races on the Nemasket River, and at the motorcycle races," Bump said. "I've also helped at a lot of accidents. We're used wherever they need us."

Up until 20 years ago, auxiliary officers did not carry a weapon, Bump said.

"That has changed," Bump said. "Every auxiliary officer carries a weapon now."

Prior to his retirement, Bump was a backhoe operator for the Middleboro Gas & Electric Department until 1970. He retired in 1996 at age 65 as a truck driver for Georgia Pacific, based in Mansfield.

Middleboro currently has about 40 auxiliary officers, who meet once a month to discuss various law enforcement topics.

"We have a good bunch in there now," Bump said.
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