The chief constable is examining "a more meaningful role" for 245 part-time officers, as the PSNI marks the 50th anniversary of the police reserve.
Simon Byrne said they could in future be used on neighbourhood patrol duties.
Currently, they are more commonly found on guard duties at police stations or crime scenes.
During the Troubles, more than 9,000 reservists, many of whom had other jobs, bolstered the ranks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
The part-time reserve was formed on 1 June 1970, but it has not recruited since 2006.
Mr Byrne said its ranks included a man aged over 70, currently shielding from Covid-19, and who is "probably the longest serving police officer anywhere in the UK".
He added: "People may not realise we still have a reserve.
"They look just like full-time officers, but their roles tend to differ. It is important to realise they still make a valuable contribution."
Of their role during the Troubles, he added: "Over 60 part-time officers were murdered by terrorists at their places of civilian work.
"We remember, too, the many hundreds more who suffered physical and mental injuries."
The Police Federation said the anniversary "is an occasion to reflect on the service they gave and the losses they suffered".