Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

ML SCOPE volunteers take on a bigger role


The Medical Lake police office is slowly but surely opening its doors thanks to help from volunteers at the Medical Lake-Espanola SCOPE office.

Volunteers have begun to handle basic administrative duties in the front office in an effort to relieve other personnel of time-consuming tasks, resulting in a stronger, more effective policing effort in the West Plains and southern area of Spokane County.

The volunteers have gone through training to work in the front office, and will help refer residents to appropriate contacts. While the organization has only recently begun their work at the substation, the impact has already been noticeable. In August alone, they helped save Spokane County $3,878.71 by volunteering 104.83 man-hours at the substation.

In the very near future, the front office will have a phone in the lobby for public use. There, they can contact Crime Check or other county departments to help take care of any non-emergency situations.

One of the county personnel noticing the difference firsthand is Detective Bob Sola, who handles cases in the West Plains and entire southern area of Spokane County.

“They’re in a place where they know where to direct the public,” he said.

The front office will be open for two days, Tuesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the onset. From there, service will eventually expand to four days a week.

SCOPE volunteers are also helping Sola by reviewing cases and bringing specific items to his attention. Reviewing active cases requires training in the county’s software and additional trust placed in the volunteers.

“You have to go through a more thorough background than you did when you first came into SCOPE,” Sola said.

Part of the duties volunteers will perform include calling residents back regarding cases they’ve called in to Crime Check. Another duty that’s saved a large number of hours already includes picking up evidence from locations around Spokane County, an ordeal that can typically take up an entire day of work. With volunteers handling some of those duties, Sola has more time to dedicate toward solving cases.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Mark Gregory said Medical Lake SCOPE volunteers have put in 6,082 hours through September of this year. In all, the Medical Lake office has saved $127,783 through their efforts. Gregory said the overall program across the entire county saved over $2 million in 2011.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” he said.

The program model works perfectly for Medical Lake, since Sola is in the office and able to supervise volunteers. The city has a different dynamic compared to other SCOPE offices across the county. But, Sola is optimistic the type of program can work elsewhere, if the situation is right.

“I’d like to think we’re blazing new ground,” he said.

Volunteers working in the SCOPE office know they’re helping to make an impact in their community with the hours they serve.

“SCOPE got my attention because it was talking about making the town I live in safer,” volunteer Cheryl Cowan said.

Those in the front office have previous life experience working in a similar environment. Whether they were secretaries, administrative assistants or performed some other office function, the SCOPE volunteers have been able to hit the ground running after some initial training.

“They have these skill sets that come in very handy,” Sola said.

Just in the past month, as volunteers begin to assist on regular cases, the difference is noticeable in the office.

“The time savings is phenomenal,” volunteer Jean Nelson said.

SCOPE volunteers said Sola’s training has been meticulous and immersive, helping them to understand each step of their work, whether it be directing a member of the public to the proper official or picking up a piece of evidence.

“He was with us. He made sure we knew what we were dealing with,” Nelson said.

Sola said he’s grateful for the assistance.

The Medical Lake-Espanola SCOPE office is always seeking more volunteers, and could use a few extra hands as the substation hours increase in importance. For more information, call 299-7525, or visit the SCOPE office on North Brooks Road and Lefevre Street on Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to noon and Thursday from noon to 3 p.m.

James Eik can be reached at

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