By William J. Fassinger, PhD, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice Department, State University of New York at Canton
he mayor of crime-ridden Camden, New Jersey, has announced layoffs of nearly half of the city’s police force and close to a third of its fire department.”1
“The jobs of five police officers and three firefighters are on the chopping block in a budget analysis presented to the Ann Arbor City Council on Monday night to help close a projected $2.4 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.”2
In Jackson Township, New Jersey, “Chief of Police Matt Kunz and PBA 168 union representative Campbell Brown [received] notice that the department may have to lay off 30 percent of its staff, 23 officers if [sic] Jackson if the budget referendum vote on April 27 is defeated.”3
Research also indicates police layoffs in Saint Louis, Missouri; Oakland, California; and forecast in Pennsylvania. What is a police chief to do during times of economic hardship?
Policing is and has been an honorable and noble profession; however, it is sometimes fraught with dangers and perils. Keeping a local community safe for citizens is a difficult task with a full complement of personnel, but when budget cuts loom in the distance, it becomes even more difficult and dangerous for officers to uphold the pledge to keep communities safe.
Following the acts of violence inflicted on the United States on 9/11, hundreds of citizens came forward to render assistance. President George W. Bush created USA Freedom Corps (USAFC) to build on these acts of citizen heroism and generosity, and in his 2002 State of the Union address he called on all Americans to “serve a cause greater than themselves.”4 According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, “The VIPS [Volunteers in Police Service] Program has its roots in the USA Freedom Corps (USAFC) initiative which followed the September 11 attacks. Citizen Corps was created in 2002 to help coordinate volunteer activities to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to any emergency situation.”5
In addition, the VIPS website states that “the VIPS Program provides support and resources for agencies interested in developing or enhancing a volunteer program and for citizens who wish to volunteer their time and skills with a community law enforcement agency.”6
Furthermore, according to Bernard Melekian, Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, “[There is a] need for a strong partnership with the community that serves as a force multiplier for local agencies and assists in focusing limited police resources where they are needed.” Volunteers can be that force multiplier for agencies.7
Since its inception, the VIPS program has been a bastion of refuge for police chiefs here in the United States and abroad. This is best demonstrated by the 2011 winners of the VIPS awards: the Hamilton, Ontario, Police Services and the Las Vegas, Nevada, Metropolitan Police Department, whose combined efforts yielded 858 volunteers contributing 145,000 hours of value-added service to these agencies. Additionally, seven other agencies received honorable mentions for their volunteer programs.
While the concept of volunteering is not new, volunteers in policing is a relatively new genre in policing. Since the establishment of the VIPS program in 2002, its main thrust has been to maximize resources at the department level, enhance public safety and service, and enhance community relations through the buy-in of each community where it is utilized.
In the Current Population Survey (CPS), a joint effort conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor in 2008, approximately 60,000 households were surveyed nationally. The results showed the following:
- The rate of volunteering was higher among women than among men across different demographic variables, including age, race, and education levels.
- 33.8 percent of parents with children under 18 years old have volunteered compared to the 23.5 percent of persons without children in that age group.
- In 2008, 21.9 percent of persons 16–24 years volunteered; 22.8 percent of persons 24–35 years volunteered; 31.5 percent of persons aged 35–44 volunteered; 29.9 percent of persons aged 45–54 volunteered; and 23.5 percent of persons 65 years and older volunteered.
- Employed persons were more likely to volunteer than unemployed persons or persons not in the labor force.
- Married persons volunteer at a higher rate than other marital statuses.
- 26.4 percent of the population volunteered.
- The 2008 national average hourly value of volunteer time is $20.25.8
As evidenced by the aforementioned data, it stands to reason that during times of economic hardship, police chiefs would want to access this almost limitless pool of individuals just waiting to volunteer.
Some police chiefs are familiar with the services that volunteers can bring to bear. Conversely, some agencies are not ready or able to take the step forward to implement a VIPS programs. One specific arena that some chiefs may wish to explore is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
In accordance with the Citizen Corps,
The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs. As a result, the LAFD created the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees.9
In order for a local government to ascertain if CERT is a tool that is needed in its community, visit the Citizen Corps website at http://www.citizencorps.gov and explore the possibilities. If it is decided that this tool could be an asset to an agency, then the process is straight forward. The first step is to explore the CERT website “Start a CERT Program,” accessible at http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/start.shtm, which provides a complete overview of the program. Step two, “Starting a CERT Program,” is available at http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/start-1-2a.shtm and fully explains identifying resources and funding. The next step is “CERT Program Registration,” accessible at http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/registry.shtm. The Citizen Corps website also provides training materials and opportunities for citizens in many jurisdictions.
One other tremendous feature of the Citizen Corps is that interested parties can take course work; for example, Introduction to Community Emergency Response Teams, IS-317, accessible at http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/training_mat.shtm, which is available. This offering has six modules with topics that include an introduction to CERT, fire safety, hazardous material and terrorist incidents, disaster medical operations, and search and rescue. Participants will take between six and eight hours to complete the course. Those who successfully finish will receive a certificate of completion. If the citizen wishes to become a CERT volunteer, then additional course work must be completed through in-class training, which is offered by the sponsoring agency.
Volunteers in policing, as previously mentioned, serve as an extension to the chief of police in their respective jurisdictions. They provide countless hours of value-added service at no cost to the local government and help to provide added services, which may have been eliminated because of budget cutbacks. The VIPS program and CERT are two viable alternatives available to chiefs to multiply their forces. It remains a truism that volunteers are force multipliers. ■
1CNN Wire Staff, “Crime-Ridden Camden, N.J., Cuts Police Force Nearly in Half,” CNN.com, January 18, 2011, http://articles.cnn.com/2011-01-18/us/new.jersey.layoffs_1_police-force-police-officers-public-safety?_s=PM:US (accessed January 30, 2012).
2Kyle Feldscher, “Ann Arbor Police and Fire Departments Facing Layoffs Yet Again, Budget Analysis Shows,” AnnArbor.com, February 15, 2011, http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-police-and-fire-departments-facing-layoffs-yet-again-according-to-budget-analysis (accessed January 30, 2012).
3“Jackson Township Police Department Facing Possible 30 Percent Reduction in Force,” Jackson NJ Online, March 28, 2011, http://www.jacksonnjonline.com/2011/03/28/jackson-township-police-department-facing-possible-30-reduction-in-force/23073(accessed January 30, 2012).
4“About VIPS,” Volunteers in Police Service, http://www.policevolunteers.org/about (accessed January 31, 2012).
5Volunteer Programs: Enhancing Public Safety by Leveraging Resources: A Resource Guide for Law Enforcement Agencies, introduction in Part I: Establishing or Enhancing a Volunteer Program, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/IACP_VIPS_ResourceGuide.pdf (accessed January 30, 2012).
6“About VIPS,” Volunteers in Police Service, http://www.policevolunteers.org/about (accessed January 31, 2012).
7Bernard K. Melekian, “The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services,” From the Director, The Police Chief 78 (March 2011): 14, http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=2330&issue_id=32011 (accessed January 31, 2012).
8“Section 2: The Current State of Volunteerism” in Volunteer Programs: Enhancing Public Safety by Leveraging Resources: A Resource Guide for Law Enforcement Agencies, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/IACP_VIPS_ResourceGuide.pdf (accessed January 30, 2012), citing the “Volunteers” supplement to the Current Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureau (2008).
9“About CERT,” Citizen Corps, http://citizencorps.gov/cert/about.shtm (accessed January 30, 2012).
Please cite as:
William J. Fassinger, "Organizational Management and Service Sustainability through Volunteers: The Force Multipliers," The Police Chief 79 (March 2012): 3435.