Volunteers Begin Training To Back Local Police Officers

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Within the next few months, a few dozen local residents will don uniforms and badges in an effort to assist the local police force.

The 35 residents enrolled in Payson's new Volunteers in Action program began training Tuesday night. By the end of their training, they'll be badge-carrying volunteers for the Payson Police Department.

Payson resident Jim White who supervised a similar program in Yavapai County was appointed by Police Chief Gordon Gartner to establish the program here.

"Phase I of the program was the initial startup of the volunteer program, and we received a lot of support from our volunteers in the area of clerical assistance," Gartner said. "Phase II will be to actually put volunteers out on the street."

Since the program first began in October, Gartner estimates that the volunteers have already saved the town $18,500 in clerical work alone.

Once training is complete, volunteers will work traffic control and protect crime scenes, will have a basic knowledge of radio procedures, and will be able to do fingerprinting at the police station and at the schools.

"They won't be out there making traffic stops, but they will also be out there basically shooting the radar gun," the chief said. When they spot a speeder, they'll write down the license plate number and recorded speed, then turn the information over to the police department to issue a citation.

The radar duty, the chief said, will act as a deterrent, as will the neighborhood patrols volunteers will be making in a cruiser that's slightly different than a standard police car.

"The car will have a set of amber lights, and will have a 'volunteer' placard on the side," White said. "But if a criminal is out there and sees a patrol car, he's not going to stop to see if it's a volunteer. They're going to think you're a cop."

Still, White said, the volunteers' role is strictly non-confrontational.

"The volunteers won't have guns," White said. "We don't want somebody getting out of their car if they spot somebody carrying a 21-inch TV down the street. They are the eyes and ears of the officers, and they'll call for an officer to come out."

"The goal," Gartner said, "is to be seen more out in the neighborhoods, and to provide assistance to our officers."

For more information about the Volunteers in Action program, call White at 474-5999, or e-mail at jwhite@ci.payson.az. us

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