The newest crop of Saanich police volunteer reserve officers, sworn in late last month, underwent a much more thorough and stringent screening process than their counterparts of years past.
Polygraph tests and full background checks – involving hundreds of interviews – were done to ensure the 24 new recruits were who they said they were.
The departmental policy on screening reserve officers changed after former reserve constable Jason Walker was arrested in January 2010 after an investigation into his claims that he was a doctor and clinical counsellor determined two doctorate degrees hanging on his office wall were fakes.
Prior to this revelation, Walker had testified at two trials, including one child custody proceeding where his affidavit as an expert witness was relied upon when the judge in that case denied the father contact with his six-year-old son.
In August 2010, Walker pleaded guilty to two counts of perjury and one count of using forged documents, and received a conditional sentence.
Sgt. Dean Jantzen says the new crop of 24 Saanich reserve officers (plus two from Oak Bay) underwent a “more robust” screening process than Walker.
“I’d like to say we’ve done a better job this time around,” Jantzen said. Two police officers were assigned full time to conducting the in-depth screening.
In 2010, then-police spokesperson Sgt. Julie Fast said Walker’s credentials were irrelevant when he was screened prior to becoming a reserve officer in June 2007.
“It doesn’t matter what career a person holds in the community, if they pass a criminal background check, which is tailored toward their work as a volunteer, that’s what we look for,” Fast said in January 2010.
The 26-member reserve class held its graduation ceremony March 31 at the Lt. Gen. Ashton Armoury, following six months of instruction on such things as legal training, traffic enforcement and tactical communication.
Reserve officers are badged constables who are considered “bonus” officers, not replacements for sworn members, Jantzen said. Their volunteer duties typically include providing support on weekend night shifts, providing security and directing traffic at community events.
The new reserves range in age from their late teens to mid-40s, and come from a variety of professional backgrounds, including an ex-member of the Peruvian military.
For more information on the reserve constable program, visit bit.ly/HeFiFG.