Citizens on Patrol, By Mitch Vaughn
Who are they and why? Our nation’s police forces lost many Officers to the armed forces during World War II as human resources were in great demand to support the war effort. Responding to the loss, men and women volunteered to help the regular police with non-enforcement duties like traffic control and high visibility patrol acting as “Eyes and Ears” for law enforcement. Individuals who performed these functions were known as Auxiliary Police. Others were called Veterans Patrols because returning men and woman from World War II staffed them. When the war ended, so did many of the Auxiliary Police programs. As crime began to rise again in the 1970’s, law enforcement departments began to re-establish this once used community asset which today is commonly known as Citizens On Patrol.
Citizens On Patrol (COPs), Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), Code Blue, Sheriff Posse, Citizen Observer Patrol, Citizen Action Patrols, Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association and many more volunteer groups throughout Texas and the United States who’s members give of themselves to assist law enforcement in communities they live in and care about. Volunteer’s for a cause they believe in is making a difference in Cities and Counties throughout Texas. Volunteers in Police Departments have a huge impact and provide a valuable service to our law enforcement. A volunteer can function in areas of clerical support, administrative duties and be on the streets as additional eyes to spot criminal activity while being a visible deterrent to crime. Police volunteer’s can also be a force multiplier for any law enforcement agency. A volunteer can be trained to deal with very low priority calls which in turn frees up an Officer who can respond to higher priority calls. A volunteer can work a minor crash or provide traffic control; even do wrecker stand-by so an Officer can be back in service responding to fights in progress, burglaries or assaults. These volunteer’s are unarmed and well trained in their respective duties. You will see them in civilian clothing driving personal vehicles with a magnetic sign or in uniform driving well-marked fully equipped patrol cars. Duties can be as limited as eyes only and trained in observation skills using a cell phone to call in suspicious persons or activity all the way up to writing parking citations, tagging abandoned vehicles, reporting code violations or responding to dispatched calls to handle livestock in a roadway, assist a motorist, perform traffic control around an accident scene or fire, Help with a missing child search and more.
Volunteers are seldom paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are PRICELESS! — Author unknown. In Texas it is estimated that a volunteer’s time is valued at $23.40 per hour. A volunteer is asked to give a minimum of 8 to 12 hrs per month in some programs, although some give far more. Volunteers in Citizens Patrol programs are not police officers. Most are trained in avoiding confrontation and are held to department standards. Aside from patrol duties these men and women also provide additional eyes and traffic control at special events held throughout the year. From 5k runs, bike races, parades, memorial walks or county fair, you will see them being of service helping with traffic flow, monitoring crowds or finding a lost child.
To join one of the many programs available applicants will need to pass a background check and be in good physical condition. Some programs require completion of a Citizens Police Academy class; these classes are provided free of charge and are held at least twice a year. Interested persons should contact your local law enforcement and inquire about joining a volunteer program. If you know that your law enforcement agency has a Citizens Patrol program contact the program’s coordinator and ask for an application.
Today there are an estimated 100,000 dedicated Citizen Patrol Volunteers throughout the United States and Canada serving in approximately 5,000 separate groups. We salute them all for their service!