There are many cogs in the wheel of local law enforcement with each doing its part to help keep the community safe, and from administrative duties to property watches, there’s one group of volunteers Kingman Police Department Chief Bob DeVries calls the “unsung heroes.”
KPD’s volunteers in policing, or VIPs, assist the department with a multitude of tasks and duties including administrative work, property watches, traffic control, evidence runs, the DUI task force and more.
“We have to have evidence that can’t be processed here either taken to Lake Havasu City, Flagstaff or Phoenix crime labs. That can be a significant amount of staff time tied up, and they willingly head off with our evidence,” DeVries said of volunteers assisting with evidence runs. “They’re all trained in the chain of custody of the evidence, and that’s a huge savings for us.”
Another example of cost savings courtesy of the additional manpower provided by VIPs is the annual Andy Devine Days Parade.
“Years ago for the Andy Devine Days Parade, the amount of staff that we would have to put on duty, and cover often at overtime, was pretty significant,” DeVries said. “We’ve been able to cut that cost in half because we now have those corners covered with volunteers, Explorers and officers. It literally cut our expenses by 50 percent or more.”
The KPD volunteers in policing program kicked off in earnest in 2007 to help the department better answer demands for service.
“We looked to replicate programs across the county and utilize volunteers that could take on some tasks and free up our officers for other duties,” DeVries said. “It’s been a success right from the get-go.”
KPD currently has about eight volunteers, but likes that number to be between 15 and 20.
“We’ve had several who have retired or because of medical issues have stepped aside,” DeVries said. “So, we’d really like to bolster up our numbers.”
For those concerned they don’t have adequate knowledge of law enforcement practices to enter into the program, that concern is mitigated with training provided by KPD and by the fact that it is the volunteer who chooses which tasks to undertake. The training provided all depends on the duties volunteers want to engage in.
“We don’t push anything on them we ask them what things they are comfortable with and would be interested in doing,” DeVries explained. “Some individuals only want to do clerical aspects or some type of filing and assisting on the inside. Others want to be more active on the outside.”
In 2017, according to the department’s annual report, KPD VIPs contributed more than 2,430 volunteer hours amounting to a cost savings of more than $57,000 for the Kingman Police Department.
And while the majority of volunteers are retirees, DeVries says the program is also open to younger folks as well. The only prerequisites are that the volunteers are at least 18 years of age and that they are without a criminal history.
“It’s really good exposure to law enforcement and the public safety aspect for the community,” DeVries said, noting the program is a way to better see, be a part of and help the community.
KPD’s Public Information Officer Jennifer Sochocki says volunteers in policing “become part of the KPD family,” and DeVries agreed, along with Patrol Lieutenant Mark Chastain.
“If interested in this program, they can come to the police department and ask to talk to myself or Sgt. David Reif and we’ll sit down with them and explain to them what our program is,” Chastain said. “If they’re still interested then we’ll hand them their packet to fill out for a background-questionnaire type of thing. We’ll make sure they understand what we’re asking of them and what we can do to help them out, too.”
While VIP is a volunteer program absent of pay, DeVries says there is a level of satisfaction gained from providing a service to the community.
“There may not be any pay involved, but I think the level of self-satisfaction that you get from providing a service to the community, and being able to go home and feel that you really truly accomplished something, that says a lot,” DeVries said.
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