Police volunteers take some burden off patrol officers
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Dec. 21, 2006 - Sulphur Springs Police Department asked earlier this year for volunteers to assist the agency. The 22 members of Volunteers on Patrol, who vary in age and occupation, have logged more than 800 volunteer hours since graduating from the training program in August.

Most recently, VOP members have been seen patrolling the halls at the local strip mall on Bill Bradford Road, a visible presence and hopefully a deterrent for would-be criminals.

"We try to be visible in the mall during the Christmas rush," said Bob Birney, a VOP as well as a retired Los Angeles police officer. "Hopefully, it'll help people feel a little more safe, and others will see us and be deterred from making someone else a victim."

That's just one example of the many tasks performed by VOPs, called "a valuable asset to the department and community," in that they free up officers for other, more demanding tasks, according to Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk.

The volunteers, who must be at least 21 years of age, also patrol the community in three marked police cars and a Ford F-150 pickup, checking for safety hazards and conducting vacation house watches and business safety checks. Some assist with clerical duties, such as filing documents at the police station. They also help out with Neighborhood Watch programs, traffic control, write citations for disabled parking violations, assist with the Chaplain Corps and assist police at special events, such as the Lions Club Christmas parade earlier this month. The volunteers also helped with traffic control at Halloween during First Baptist Church's Trunk or Treat on Oak Avenue.

"We have a place for anybody who can pass the thorough background check and wants to help," said Lt. Rex Morgan, who oversees the program. "They do have to commit to eight hours of volunteer work per month. That can include office duty if they do not want to work out in the field. They can answer administrative telephone lines or something like that. We have no problems finding them something to do as long as they meet the criteria."

Another training class will be held the last three Saturdays in January for anyone interested in participating in Volunteers on Patrol. Participation in all three weekends of training (Jan. 13, 20 and 27) is required, as is prior submission of an application.

The classes include 24 hours of training in a variety of subjects, including disaster preparedness, fire safety, first aid, search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism and the National Incident Management System. Other topics to be covered include police department policies and procedures, ethics, radio communications, traffic and crowd control, defensive driving and patrol tactics, disabled parking violations, Sky-Warn storm spotting and cultural diversity.

Applications are available from Lt. Rex Morgan at the police station. Those applying are asked to return applications prior to January if possible to allow officials ample time to conduct background checks and evaluate the application.

For more information call Morgan at 903-885-7602.

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