Well, they are men and women who do a cop’s job — and, as we’ve seen, face the same risks — without even the meager compensation of a cop’s pay. In other words, they’re volunteer police, and the city has about 5,000 of them. The Auxiliary Police Program is open to any person “of good character” between the ages of 17 (!) and 60. (Those 61 and older can apply for “limited duties.”) Indeed, one of the two officers killed last night, Yevgeniy Marshalik, was a 19-year-old NYU student. You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen or even a resident (a valid visa is enough). The officers are tasked with things like crowd control at sporting events, or simply lending an air of police authority whenever and wherever needed. Auxiliary cops can’t make an arrest (or, rather, they can — just like you: a citizen’s arrest); when things turn hairy, they tend to call up regular reinforcements. A common reason for joining is to try a cop’s life on for size; for Marshalik and Pekearo, sadly, there’ll be no opting out.
Last night’s murder of two auxiliary police officers in a bizarre Houston Street shoot-out accidentally shines a spotlight on the underreported vocation of auxiliary policing. Who are these uniformed, unarmed cops-but-not-quite, whom you probably wouldn’t be able to tell from the “real” police on the street, and why do people sign up for the gig?