The use of auxiliary police forces, trained citizen volunteers who work alongside sworn officers, may be helpful to bridge trust between the community and police, acting Attorney General John Hoffman said Thursday while speaking at an event at Thomas Edison State College.
Hoffman said programs should be worked out based on the needs and climate of each agency, but that he sees how the use of auxiliary officers, like those employed by the Perth Amboy Police Department, can be a benefit.
In addition to providing law enforcement with more bodies and assisting in certain tasks – like assisting in providing crowd control at events alongside officers, helping in missing persons searches and serving as community-police liaisons – Hoffman said the programs could create a shared sense of responsibility in the community for crime.
"It memorialized and formalized the sense of accountability and responsibility in the community," Hoffman said. "You, too, are in this with us. You, too, are accountable."
Auxiliary police officers are not armed, but do go through some basic training and background checks before being accepted into the program. Hoffman said he does not believe there is a "one size fits all" approach for each municipality for auxiliary officers, but said he encourages law enforcement to determine where the citizen assistance may be helpful to build a program.
Trenton acting Police Director Ernest Parrey, Jr. said Wednesday he would consider creating an auxiliary force for the city's police department, mostly to help recruit new officers to the force.
"We want to try to draw folks in," Parrey said.
Parrey said any auxiliary program would be an extension of the city's Police Explorers program, which was revived this year after the program was a victim of budget cuts.
Parrey said it would be a long term consideration, because the department does not have the funding in the current budget to implement an auxiliary program immediately.