12,499 Hours Of Care By Police Volunteers

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Volunteers in Action' is not a misnomer for the men and women who help the Payson Police Department.

The 12,499 hours of service they tallied in 2007 equal more than six full-time positions.

Volunteer-power currently means the 31 people on the PATH (Police Access to the Homebound) list have someone who will check on their welfare.

"Hi. I just called to see how you are," Janet Brown said during one of her Monday morning calls.

To another homebound person, she suggests how a Food Care box might help.

Tuesday, these 31 people on the list will talk to another volunteer, and so on.

"We call, not just five, but seven days a week now. The people we call set the time for the call on the hour or half hour," Brown said.

"Unless we are super busy (at the reception desk), we try not to rush them off the phone because sometimes, we are the only person they talk to all day," she added.

They keep track of Guardian Angel monitors.

Morning volunteers also act as receptionists, answering phones and questions at the window. They issue animal traps, take vacation watch information, do fingerprinting from 8 a.m. until noon and take in found property, which is paperwork intensive.

Most of the people who come to the window are friendly, but sometimes a question stumps them. Then they refer to the ‘volunteer bible.'

"You can never know everything," Brown said.

She began volunteering about five years ago when her husband Tom said the department needed help.

Tom usually has the most volunteer hours.

"I'm the police department honey doer, but I'm incognito," he said between one errand and the next.

"We couldn't make it without Tom. He does everything. He is our SRT (special response team) van driver, if we need a picture hung or something fixed we go find Tom," Kim Becker, executive assistant said.

Margaret Holmes is another volunteer in action behind the scenes.

She files traffic tickets, complaints and juvenile reports.

She and other morning and afternoon volunteers make sure when city and county attorneys ask for copies of documents, they get the ones they need.

"I've met a lot of fun people. I think it is interesting because my mother-in-law retired as a police dispatcher in Monrovia, California. She enjoyed it, so I thought I would spend some time," Holmes said.

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She chips in two days a week, but plans to add more hours in 2008.

The police department matches skills and interests to needs.

Patrols I and II

Car and radio training is available.

Patrol I volunteers will look for suspicious activities then relay the information back to the department. Patrol II officers may issue handicapped parking citations.

Both patrols do vacation home watches.

Police volunteers have also helped in bike races, Soap Box Derbies, crime scene security, traffic control and funeral escorts.

Providing security at a crime scene, such as at a house, means making certain unauthorized people do not go inside, Ron Barker said.

Barker retired in 1997 from the Boy Scouts of America. Three years ago, he began volunteering at the police station.

What keeps him coming back?

"Serving the community is a good way to spend my retirement," Barker said.

Although, his joking request for a raise was met with a laugh and ‘You'll get double what you got last week,' Barker said,

"We have the best volunteers."

It is a sentiment echoed by Police Commander Don Engler in April 2007 before he became chief.

"We just overwhelmingly appreciate the effort they give us," Engler said. "They contribute to us daily. Some programs would not be able to run without them."

There are 55 volunteers, but not all are active.

Current needs include receptionists and people to transcribe police reports.

"We need people to help with the impound program. That entails taking people to get property out of their vehicles," Becker said.

Volunteer shifts are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:30 to 5 p.m.

Volunteers must be fingerprinted and submit to a background check. Training is on-the-job.

For more information, contact Kim Becker at (928) 474-5242, ext. 209.

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