With the recent spike in homicides, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey declared the city under a crime emergency, a step that gives him extra authority to mess with officers’ schedules and flood high-crime areas. It’s one of those times when the chief might turn to his Reserve Corps, a unit of roughly 200 volunteer officers whose primary function is to provide police visibility. This spring, the volunteers contend, Ramsey weakened the reserve force by stripping volunteers’ policing authority and their ability to fight dismissals. The volunteers have since cut back on volunteering, a development that hit hard on July 4, when the department fielded only a fraction of its reserve phalanx. One volunteer who refused to work on Independence Day wrote his superior via e-mail on July 3: “With my own well-being and liability in mind, I cannot work under the conditions laid out in the new [rules].” Two weeks ago, reserve officer Matthew August LeFande and other volunteers filed a class-action lawsuit in District Court seeking monetary damages and a halt to the new rules. “I liken it to kicking a puppy; there’s no point to it,” LeFande says of the new regs. “You want to belittle these people. All they want to do is show up and do police work.” Says Ramsey: “They’re volunteers. Don’t you think I have the right to [manage] how you are volunteering?”