Police Department starts Volunteers in Policing group
By BECKY THOMAS
A new group of citizens is forming to help out the Cheney Police Department.
Volunteers In Policing, or VIP, is a new program aimed at reducing the workload of police officers by giving volunteers responsibility for things like evidence logging, fingerprinting, parking enforcement and clerical work. The idea, Police Chief John Hensley said, is to give officers more time doing what they're trained to do: responding to and preventing crime in the community.
“They can help with that workload, and they can be another set of eyes and ears,” Hensley said.
The program is similar to SCOPE, the Spokane County Sheriff's volunteer program that has a branch based at Cheney's Wren Pierson Community Center. Hensley stressed that VIP is not trying to diminish the work of SCOPE, but is focusing solely on the city of Cheney.
“SCOPE has been really helpful to us, but Cheney has some different priorities and different needs,” he said.
With a goal of 10 volunteers, Cheney VIP is starting out with two members, Jim and Beth Valentine. The Valentines are retired members of SCOPE, where they were training in many of the procedures they'll work on with the new group.
“We really wanted to give more back to our community,” Jim said.
The volunteers began work last month, and they're recruiting friends to help out. The Valentines were commissioned by the mayor to handle civil matters, meaning they won't be arresting anyone. The focus is assisting officers when they can, and aiding in crime prevention.
Jim Valentine said he was looking forward to getting a patrol car for VIP.
“Just having that extra car buzzing around is a deterrent in itself,” he said, adding the volunteers will visit homes for vacation checks as requested.
Ultimately, the volunteers and the police hope VIP will make the community safer.
“Times are tough. They can't hire more police officers,” Beth Valentine said. “This is a way for the community to say, ‘we're here to help.'”
Hensley said the department used funds from the quartermaster's account to purchase uniforms, and got the car from another city department.
“It seems like we're going to be able to do this with existing resources,” he said.
For more information on VIP call Cheney Police Sgt. Kelly Hembach at 498-9235.
Becky Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.