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One Court of Justice Blog

September 17, 2015

COA: Reserve police officer is not a police officer for purposes of the resisting and obstructing statute

In People v. Feeley, No. 325802, the Court of Appeals held that failure to comply with the command of a reserve police officer was not within the scope of MCL 750.81d, the resisting and obstructing statute.  The court found that the Legislature did not include the term “reserve police officer” in the definition of “persons” whose lawful orders must be obeyed in order to avoid criminal liability under the statute.  Furthermore, while “persons” included “[a] police officer of . . . a political subdivision of this state,” the court found that a “reserve police officer” is not a “police officer” for purposes of this statute.
 
The court looked at the plain language of the statute and reasoned that had the Legislature intended a broad meaning to apply to the term “police officer,” it would not have specified the statute’s application to, inter alia, university police officers, sheriff’s deputies, peace officers, and federal conservation officers.  That the Legislature did not include “reserve police officers” seemed to indicate to the court that the omission was intentional.  Thus, the court concluded that, by its terms, the statute does not apply to the failure to obey the order of a reserve police officer.
 
The Court of Appeals found that the cases relied upon by the prosecution were inapposite to the present case.  In People v. McRae, the Michigan Supreme Court held that a reserve police officer was a “state actor” for Fourth Amendment purposes.  The Court of Appeals found that there is no basis to conclude that because a reserve police officer has been held to be a state actor under constitutional standards that he is also a “police officer” for purposes of the resisting and obstructing statute.  Moreover, while this court held in Bitterman v. Village of Oakley that reserve police officers fell within the “law enforcement exception” to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, the court found the term “law enforcement officer, agent, or informant” is undoubtedly broader than the term “police officer.”
 
Judge Sawyer dissented because although “reserve police officer” is not included in the list of “persons” whose lawful orders must be obeyed under the statute, it does not follow that the Legislature intended to omit reserve officers from the definition.  Judge Sawyer reasons that the majority’s reasoning is correct only if the Legislature already concluded that a “reserve police officer” is not already included within the category of “police officer of . . . a political subdivision of this state.”

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