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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca (L) introduces Los Angeles County Reserve Deputy Sheriff Shervin Lalezary (C) to reporters as the officer who arrested a serial arson suspect, as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (R) looks on during a press conference on Jan. 2, 2012, in Los Angeles, California. The mayor identified Harry Burkhart, 24, as the suspect in custody whom police say was likely responsible for setting more than 50 fires over the weekend.
It's a bird, it's a plane – it's Shervin Lalezary! He's the L.A. County sheriff's deputy who caught Harry Burkhart, who's suspected of setting more than 50 fires in four days. The 30-year-old native of Iran gets paid a dollar a year moonlighting as a reserve officer. But the newfangled neighborhood hero deals with real estate law during the day. How is he qualified to wield a gun and drive a patrol car?
"You can't just show up and get a badge and a gun," spokesman Steve Whitmore of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said about their reserve program. According to Whitmore, reserve officers-to-be squeeze in night and weekend classes along with their regular work schedules.
Reserve deputies are assigned to one of three tiers depending on how much they have trained, with level three having the least authority and level one having full law enforcement powers 24 hours a day. Lalezary is level one, meaning he's authorized to carry weapons and patrol in a police car solo.
To rank with Lalezary, trainees receive the exact schooling as a sworn deputy: At least 1,064 hours of training, which includes 400 hours of field operation training in a patrol car on the streets.
Whitmore said anyone ready to fully commit to the program is welcome.
"Our reserves go from factory workers to CPAS to attorneys to corporate presidents," he continued. "It covers the gamut of all working people in this community."
The night of Burkhart's arrest was Lalezary's fourth shift. He identified Burkhart using a given description of the suspect's van and profile, and detained the suspect as two other officers covered him, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The sheriff's reserve program was originally created during World War II to fill gaps in law enforcement as people left for war. According to Whitmore, 844 reserve deputies currently serve throughout the department.