MARC GARMAN - EDITOR

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Editor's note: Thought I'd try embedding the video from the meeting right in the article. Handy and helpful, or policy wonk HELL on parade? Of course you can go to the city website to view the video...but if you like having it all in one place on VIB...or not, let us know.
 

 

Citizens on Safety

 

Vallejo Citizens' Public Safety Advisory Committee Report for May 9, 2012

Using Volunteers to Improve Service

  

By Hatfield McCoy

5/14/12

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The third meeting of the Vallejo Ad Hoc Public Safety Review committee met last Wednesday evening with committee members Burky Worel and Karol Heppe absent/excused. Unfortunately there were no speaker

cards or agendas initially available for the general public.

Downtown merchant Lavonne Salle requested a card from Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom. Salle, owner of a shop called One of a Kind Barbie, spoke about the public perception of downtown crime; she then submitted copies of personal research and observation regarding crime in the downtown corridor. Councilwoman Marti Brown also addressed the committee offering some departmental ‘best practice’ information used by the City of Ventura. Councilwoman Brown gave research and contact information to the committee chair: Joanne Schivley. Councilmembers Stephanie Gomes, Robert McConnell and Bob Sampayan were in the audience, recognized by the chair.

 

The general public is always encouraged to address the Public Safety Review committee regarding either concerns or helpful suggestions. Chairwoman Joanne Schivley has further arranged for the public to watch these meetings ‘live’ on Vallejo’s government channel 28. Meetings can also be viewed on the city’s website link.

 

 

With a quorum in place, the committee heard presentations from both the Solano County Sheriff’s Department and the city of Vacaville Police Department. Both gave excellent and thorough reviews of their current citizen volunteer programs. Solano county sheriff Gary Stanton spoke about their program entitled “SAVE” which stands for: Sheriff’s Active Volunteer Experience. A few committee members asked about the cost. Stanton purported that the cost is negligible and stated: “In reality, we cannot afford not to have volunteers at the sheriff’s office.” One citizen attendee asked him if there is an age limit to volunteering in his program. To that he answered: “Most of our volunteers are retired people who bring great intelligence and a wide breadth of experience to us. We could not be as successful without them. There is absolutely no age limit.” Stanton further stated that the sheriff’s department has been successfully using volunteers since the early 1950’s, but he reflected that there were volunteer ‘Posse members’ as early as the late 1800’s. He was careful to point out that volunteers in no way do the work of sworn officers, but merely assist where they can. Since his department had lost over 21% of its workforce, with at least 100 people having been released in the last few years, volunteers have helped fill the gap. He currently has twenty-five SAVE volunteers who log in over 700 hours each month. They consist of both retirees and young people who have expressed interest in law enforcement. Volunteers work totally for free, and are given a sports shirt and jacket with the embossed sheriff department emblem. They are each thoroughly trained, tested and given comprehensive background checks. Volunteers are then placed in an area of their personal interest. “It became very clear to us that if they did not enjoy their assigned work, they would not stay with us, so we try to match their areas of interest,” Stanton said. Based on their jobs, some are given trucks to drive for purposes of vacation or wellness checks throughout the county. They are also supplied flashlights, radios and cell phones on loan. Other volunteers work in the office as support staff. “There is one volunteer whose job as a cook at the jail was recently compromised. You would think she would be angry, but no, she came back to be with us as a volunteer. She recently helped us sort keys – a badly needed task that none of us had time for; it seems mundane, but definitely necessary,” Stanton said. Committee member Bob Schussel asked: “Have you met with resistance from any of the sworn officers?” To that Stanton replied: “If you assign volunteers to augment only, there should be no problems. Officers appreciate the needed support.” Stanton also spoke about his program of ‘Reserve Officers’ stating that he currently has five trained reserve officers. “These officers are not responsible for either on-line or phone reports,” he explained. Committee member Beistel asked who does the in-house training. Stanton said that “Initially we have sworn officers help, but once volunteers become familiar with procedures, and we feel confidence in them, they can train. We spend less than $5,000 annually on training for all programs,” he said. “Our sheriff’s sergeant manages this program. It works well. We have forty hours in field training, and volunteers are asked to commit to a certain number of hours each month. It is amazing the number of applicants we always seem to receive. People by nature truly do want to help, if they have their choice of helping us out in the county, or watching daytime television like Dr. Phil, many choose the latter. These people are the eyes and ears of our community,” said Stanton.


In the year 2000 the city of Vacaville hired a police department volunteer coordinator. Her name is Susanne Johnson and her title is: Police Special Services Supervisor. “When I first arrived, they gave me a list of possible volunteers. They handed me a list of about 150 names; about fifteen of whom already had jobs. “There is no budget. Here is a desk and a phone. That’s all we got,” is what Johnson remembers them telling her. Today Johnson has logged over 22,032 hours of volunteer service, just in the year of 2011. She attributes $5l5,989.44 as money the Vacaville police department did not have to spend due to the efforts of its volunteers. Total cost to the department? She estimates about $5,000 annually.


Unlike the Solano County Sheriff’s department, the Vacaville Police Department gives away nothing. There are currently about eighty volunteers in the Vacaville Police Dept. These volunteers not only do not get paid, but they must purchase their own uniforms. The average volunteer stays in their job on average two years. But many others stay years longer. Their tasks consist of work such as graffiti/vandal reports, finger print logs, video surveillance, data entry, bike path patrol, wellness and vacation checks, dog assistance, parking/code enforcement, newsletter subscriptions, information booths, parade assistance, child identification programs, the Victim’s contact programs, office reception, filing, data entry, facility tours for schools and other organizations, PAL fundraising events, and much more. They must be 18 years of age, and willing to work at least four weeks annually, or 200 hours. The department does a background check, and conducts bi-monthly training meetings. Similar to the sheriff’s department, they have a 48 hour initial training program. And depending upon the position, they may also be asked to do ride-along/shadow training. “They become part of our family; we give out many awards,” Johnson said. “What is the cost of recruitment?” Committee member DeJesus asked. “We send press releases, use PSA’s (public service announcements), use the boards at the local library, and senior centers. There is very little cost other than for paper and printing. You would be amazed at the number of people out there who want to help,” Johnson said. Both Sheriff Stanton and the Vacaville police volunteer coordinator Johnson generously offered to give both the Vallejo police and fire departments extensive help, and materials were they to request same.


The city of Vallejo has a police department volunteer program. Some committee members, however, think that it could be expanded. To find out more about this, Bob Schussel asked committee member DeJesus whom to contact within the Vallejo city police department. “People may call me at (707) 648-4696 to inquire,” Sid DeJesus said. DeJesus is in the Internal Affairs division of the Vallejo police department, and is also a non voting committee member. In calling that number recently, a recording was heard stating that DeJesus will be in Washington for two weeks honoring slain officer Capoot who died last year.


Committee member Dunn of the Vallejo Fire Department stated that he would arrange for the public to have copies of the Fire Fighters ‘Bill of Rights,’ and will explain in further detail the Vallejo firefighter reserve programs available in the Vallejo city Fire Dept in conjunction with the Explorer program. He explained the difference between the Reserve vs. Trainee programs stating that Reserves have less stringent stipulations: One year minimum training, possession of a paramedic license, and firefighter I certificate from a community college. They are asked to work two 24 hour shifts per month. Trainees are paid part time for twenty hours, and must be full-time students carrying twelve units, and maintain a certain college grade point average, as well as meeting all of the reserve requirements. Both programs give the fire department an excellent resource for a pool of future full-time firefighter candidates, and act as cost saving devices. The fire department also offers a CERT program which brings awareness to the general public as to what the fire department does. Dunn offered to expound upon these topics in future meetings. The public may also learn more about these programs from the city’s website.


In other matters, committee member Schussel stated that he would be happy to help arrange for future speakers. Committee member Kelley asked Officer DeJesus if he would obtain more information about police response time, stating that he has heard some members of the public have asked about this. DeJesus stated that he would bring more up-to-date info as he only held statistics available dating from 2005. (Maybe they really do need that IT info from Ventura County as proposed by Councilwoman Brown?) DeJesus explained that there is a breakdown as to priority #1 calls versus other calls.

Kelley said that he would like such information to be made available and agendized for a future meeting.


Per the May 9th agenda, there was another discussion about sub-committees. Just as committee member Burky Worel had stated in a past meeting, committee member Tweedy reiterated similar feelings. “I think we are putting the cart before the horse asking for sub-committees when we don’t even know what matters are going to be explored. It seems to me that we should send out a questionnaire to the public perhaps included in the water bill. That way we can at least know what direction the public wants us to go toward, and what we need to be focused on,” former firefighter and committee member Tweedy said. Assistant City Manager Whitom said a notice placed in the water bill would take an eight to ten week lead time. There was no further discussion or vote on this matter in view of the two absent committee members. The next meeting will take place at the city hall council chambers on May 23rd at 6:30p.m.