I tend to pay attention to badges of NYPD officers. Some time ago I noticed some very strange star shaped badges on fully uniformed officers. I thought that they were simply from out of town cops, but that wasn’t it. A little research showed that those were NYPD Auxiliary Police officers.

As far as I can tell, it’s a volunteer force of over 4000 ordinary citizens. The requirements are reasonable, but not super difficult. They get 54 hours of training over a 16 week period (which I hear included some pretty advanced things like baton training and such). And then they get to take part in various parade details, traffic direction and overall helping out the NYPD. They get uniforms, radios and if I am not misled – batons and handcuffs. Some get to ride along in radio cars, some – get to go on foot patrol.

In short, this deceptively looks like a perfect way to live out all your NYPD Blue and Cops fantasies (seing how saying “who’s the skell who wrote this piece of code” gets tired fast). Of course that isn’t it. They way I understand it, auxiliary officers are supposed not to get involved in confrontations, but to call the regular officers on the radio when bad stuff is happening. Still, a very, very cool program.

Also the auxiliary force is not without controversy. Police unions are not ecstatic about an non-paid force of relatively untrained volunteers.