OREGON CITY, Ore. – When police officer Robert Libke put on his uniform Sunday, hopped in a patrol car and responded to the call of a burning house he was doing so as a volunteer.
He was later shot and killed while responding to a house fire.
Libke had the capabilities of a traditional police officer – he had a gun, badge, the power to arrest people – but as part of the reserve officer program, he wasn’t a paid, full-time officer.
As the Oregon City police chief explained during a ceremony swearing in Libke as an officer, reserve officers get extensive training to be “really good back-up for regular officers.”
Many police departments in Oregon operate reserve programs, including departments in all the Portland metro-area counties.
Dave Rash runs the reserve officer training academy for those officers. He said reserve officers go through training that lasts about half as long as full-time, paid officers.
The training includes classroom time and firing range practice.
“Some people have established careers, school teachers, established in private industry,” Rash said.
Rash said generally reserve officers do not work alone. Libke was working with a full-time officer on Sunday when he was shot.
Libke’s family is entitled to the same benefits as the family of any Oregon police officer killed in the line of duty.
Benefits from the Oregon State Public Safety Memorial Fund includes a lump payment of $25,000, up to a year of mortgage payments, up to five years of health and dental insurance and benefits for Libke’s child.
Libke’s wife is pregnant with the couple’s only child.
The board that doles out those benefits will meet on Thursday to consider Libke’s case.
On Tuesday, the Oregon Governor’s Commission on the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor also held an emergency meeting to give Libke the Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice. The commission unanimously agreed to grant Libke the honor.
The commission was created in 2012 at the request of law enforcement agencies around the state to honor fallen officers.