Volunteers Make Police Work Easier

Helpers range from teens to senior citizens

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Jesse Davies, a senior in high school, has already identified his career goal, and with the help of the Payson Police Department, he's getting his foot in the door a little early.

Davies wants to become a police officer, and with the police department's new volunteer program, he's getting a hands-on look at the inner workings of police work.

Called Volunteers in Action, the program's goal is to improve the services provided by the Payson Police Department through volunteer assistance.

"Jesse started out doing bicycle registrations, and now he's doing a little bit of everything," Jill Carlson, the department's volunteer coordinator, said.

"I work about 12 hours a week," Davies said, "doing things like filing, type letters ... right now, I'm condensing a video tape of a police training exercise on domestic violence." Davies was also on the video tape, portraying the child of a fictitious couple battling domestic violence.

Davies is just one of about 40 local residents who responded to the department's call for volunteers. The response, Carlson said, was nearly overwhelming.

"We had no idea how many people we could expect," she said. "I never expected this kind of turnout."

The volunteers range from teenagers to senior citizens and are students, housewives, and even a retired police officer from New Jersey.

"We started the program at the end of September," Carlson said. "From the beginning to the end of October, our volunteers clocked in 330 hours of service to the department."

Along with Davies, those workers serve as receptionists, office clerks, tour guides and public relations. Their duties include doing noncriminal fingerprinting, conducting traffic controls and working special events. They also do outdoor maintenance, work the armory and work with the local pawn shops.

Even though Randy Calhoun already has a full-time career as a computer technician for the Town of Payson, he also found time to volunteer for the police department.

"Before the department moved, I had an office in the old station and helped train officers on their computer systems," Calhoun said. That close association with the men and women in blue piqued his interest.

"I did a couple of ride-alongs with them, and you really get a completely different perspective when you see things from their viewpoint," he said. "They even tried talking me into becoming a reserve officer, but I told them I'm too old and slow." Volunteering for the department, he found, was a little more suited to his pace.

"I've been working in computers for 19 years," Calhoun said. "Being a volunteer for the police department is completely different than my real job, and in a way, it's relaxing."

To learn more about Volunteers in Action, contact Carlson at the Payson Police Department, 474-5242, ext. 209, or e-mail her at jcarlson@ci.payson.az.us.

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