THERE are a number of benefits to the Columbus Police Department’s latest outreach program in which volunteers are being sought to assist officers in some administrative and maintenance duties.
As noted by Police Chief Jason Maddix, the program gives citizens an opportunity to become actively involved with the department while at the same time performing a community service.
Columbus has been blessed with a tremendous spirit of volunteerism among its residents, people who are willing to look beyond their own needs and pleasures to participate in activities that benefit others and the community at large.
There have been innumerable events staged by a variety of civic and nonprofit organizations that have been successful because organizers have been able to utilize small armies of volunteers for many duties that would add thousands of dollars to operating budgets were those roles to be outsourced to professional firms.
Many public sector agencies and social service entities have also been able to use volunteers in day-to-day operations on a more frequent basis, saving money in their operating budgets.
While volunteerism might involve some rather mundane duties, such as stuffing envelopes for a fundraiser or filing papers, many volunteers are moved to give of their time because of the mission of the organization or they simply are attracted to the work.
In the case of the Columbus Police Department, that latter attraction is a compelling one. Many people are simply drawn to police work because of the nature of the department.
Witness the interest in the special deputies program of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department. These unpaid individuals are more than willing to not only donate their own time but also assume some of the expenses for uniforms and equipment.
The duties of the volunteers being sought by the Columbus Police Department are not as closely entwined with patrol activities or other responsibilities that the special deputies take on — the CPD is also looking into a program utilizing retired police officers — but they get into certain areas of law enforcement.
For instance, volunteers will be used in the recovery and tracking of abandoned bicycles, graffiti reporting and tracking, victim assistance, patrol vehicle care and minor maintenance, public relations and special events, parking enforcement, evidence disposal and case tracking and assisting the records division with filing, shredding and customer service.
While these are important missions, the ability to transfer them to volunteers has the added benefit of freeing police officers for activities more closely related to law enforcement.
This direction of “putting more officers on the street” has been an ongoing theme in the department for several months and predates the current administration.
Through a number of steps arrived at after careful evaluation of various duties officers have had to take on over the years, the CPD administration has either been able to outsource many of those duties or has eliminated under-utilized programs. An example of the latter was the decision to not staff the reception desk after hours and on weekends.
The bottom line is that local police officers are better positioned to devote much of their time to public safety.
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