The Purcellville Police Department will get some additional support in the coming months through the help of volunteers.
Police Chief Cynthia McAlister this week told the Town Council that her officers are adopting a Volunteers in Police Service program to recruit resident volunteers to support the department, which has been a bit low on staff for the past few months. McAlister said that while the town’s 18 sworn police officers are often pulled away from patrolling the community to take care of administrative duties, the program would allow officers to perform important duties more quickly by having the volunteers handle other tasks that still need to get done.
“The whole purpose really is to free up officers to actually be on the street doing patrol and doing services for the community that are law enforcement-related, as opposed to doing tasks that are much more administrative,” she said.
To become a member of the program, a resident must be at least 18 years old, in good physical and mental health, able to pass a background check and not currently working as a police officer. Applicants will also need to complete an application and identify which job positions appeal to them.
Those positions will include a chaplain, an interpreter, a volunteer coordinator, a support grant writer, a receptionist and interns. Once the department receives an application, it will schedule an interview with the applicant if a job match is available. If the applicant is brought on board, he or she will be required to participate in staff training sessions specific to the assigned job before working a minimum of 15 hours each quarter.
“We think it’s going to be very fluid for a while,” McAlister said. “Hopefully, it’s going to help us be a little bit more transparent in our operations.”
Although implementing the program will take up a portion of town staff’s time, McAlister expects there will be a considerable return on that investment. According to Independent Sector, the national average value for volunteer time in 2018 is $24.69 per hour.
Created in 2002 by President George W. Bush’s USA Freedom Corps, Volunteers in Police Service is a nationwide program managed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the U.S. Department of Justice to support agencies’ desires to expand their capacity by bringing in volunteers.
The program was adopted by the Fairfax County Police Department in 2013 and by the City of Fairfax Police Department in 2009. Both jurisdictions have a volunteer age requirement of 21.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Leesburg Police Department also have similar volunteer programs. The sheriff’s office created its auxiliary unit in 1999 to give residents the chance to help conduct vehicle and foot patrols, conduct sobriety checkpoints and manage traffic at public events. Leesburg Police created a citizens support team in 1996 to allow residents to help with patrolling, crowd control and occasionally assist at emergency scenes.