First Couple to Graduate From Academy : Tour of Duty in L.A. Police Reserves Is a Family Affair

Actually, it was Bonnie Roberts' idea to become a Los Angeles Police Reserve officer.

It seemed an unlikely role for the mother of two grown children who collected antiques and was an accomplished artist, but she was concerned about reports of crime in her West Los Angeles community and wanted to do something about it.

Seymour, her husband, is director and vice president of California Resources Development Co., a firm that provides residential care for the elderly and disabled who are on fixed incomes. But he went with Bonnie to inquire about the reserves at the West Los Angeles police station. A sergeant eyed the couple and asked Seymour, "Why don't you get involved, too?" Roberts couldn't resist the challenge.

After interviews and examinations, the couple entered the Los Angeles Police Academy, attending two nights a week and one day every other weekend for 4 1/2 months.

In early 1982, they became the first married couple to graduate together as either regular or reserve officers.

At that point they were technical reserves, limited to working inside the station or taking reports of burglaries after they occurred. Technical reserves do not carry guns and are not sent on calls when a crime is under way. Extra studies qualified them as latent-fingerprint experts who visit crime scenes, dust for prints, then lift the prints with transparent tape.

The couple's fascination with police work grew. They spent more than the required time on duty and took on extra responsibilities, such as organizing reservists' meetings.

Another sergeant suggested they consider becoming line reserve officers, who do everything a regular police officer does.

"Bonnie and I went back to the academy. Naturally, we both got through it. We did very well. We both made sharpshooter (for proficiency with hand guns)," Seymour Roberts said.

"As line reserves we went every Monday and Wednesday," he said. "We volunteered for extra physical training. We would get there at 5 p.m., change into sweats and do 45 minutes of calisthenics and running, then go to the regular classes from 7 to 10 or 11 p.m. On every other weekend, we would report to the academy at 7:30 a.m. We would work 32 hours one week and 16 the next week, plus at least 20 to 30 hours study time at home," he said.

"The whole thing was difficult," said Bonnie Roberts, who had been a teen-age beauty queen (Miss Greater Shamokin, Pa.). "I thought I was going to die. I never used so much liniment.

"Before I went to the academy, I had worked out for 3 1/2 years at Jane Fonda's Workout, and even at that it was tough."

Her husband reminded her that some of the other members in their reserve training class were only 22 or 21 years old. Bonnie is 44 and Seymour 43.

"When I went in I couldn't do one push-up!" Bonnie said. "I couldn't do even half a push-up. I couldn't go up in order to go down. By the time I finished I could do 40 push-ups. I still do them, to keep in shape."

To help Bonnie, Seymour set up hurdles in their back yard, but the training was still hard. "There were a couple of times during physical training when I think I cried," Bonnie said.

"It's a paramilitary organization," Seymour Roberts said. "It's not a game. They are trying to protect your life. The primary thing is officer safety."

Their training at the academy is described as a reduced version of the regular officers' training. It includes physical fitness, weaponless defense, firearms and such academic subjects as criminal law, rules and ethics, procedures, patrol practices and crime report writing.

Regular officers get 190 hours of Spanish classes.

As reservists, the Robertses are supplied with uniforms and all equipment, including revolvers.

They are paid $15 a month. For this, they are required to work two eight-hour shifts and attend one reservists' meeting each month.

During the first six months after they graduated, Bonnie worked 26 shifts and Seymour 25. In January, she worked two shifts and he worked four, on top of his regular job.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World