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Clayton police volunteer program gets green light

JONESBORO — Clayton County residents will soon be able to help police keep the county safe.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the creation of a “Volunteers in Police Services” program in the police department that will allow residents to volunteer with some of the department’s non-enforcement duties. They may not be able to patrol the streets, but the volunteers will be able to help out around police headquarters and precincts.

“As part of the Community Policing Initiative, the VIPS program will work as a force multiplier by helping the department accomplish its mission using citizen volunteers in selected areas of the department,” police Chief Greg Porter wrote in a request to commissioners. “This will save money, improve citizen understanding of the police function and tap the bounty of experienced workers in our community who want to help make the county safer for all.”

Porter told commissioners the program will begin with four volunteers. Start-up costs associated with creating the program will be paid for with Urban Area Security Initiative grant funds.

The volunteers must complete the Citizen Police Academy program before they can volunteer for the VIPS program, and they must be at least 18. They must also pass a background check to be accepted into the program. Completion of on-the-job training required by the department will also be mandatory

Porter told county Chief Operating Officer Arrelle Anderson in a Sept. 6 inter-office memo that the International Association of Chiefs of Police established the VIPS model in 2002 in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. More than 244,000 volunteers are believed to be working with 2,180 law enforcement agencies through VIPS programs, Porter wrote.

“The program’s ultimate goal is to enhance the capacity of law enforcement agencies to utilize volunteers through the provision of no-cost resources and assistance,” Porter wrote in the memo.

The volunteers will work with the police headquarters front desk, records section, public affairs, criminal investigations division, animal control and code enforcement, according to Porter’s memo. Specific duties could include translation services for non-English speaking residents, assistance in preparing for Citizen Police Academy and neighborhood watch meetings, preparation of brochures and flyers, and phone call follow-ups for “no lead” cases.

The volunteers will have dress codes they must follow. The most basic component of the dress code, according to county documents, is that they must “conform to department-approved dress consistent with their duty assignment and will prominently display their approved, laminated photo identification card whenever they are on duty.”

Other dress code requirements include no earrings for males, small conservative earrings for women, no more than one ring on each hand, one watch and no more than one bracelet on wrists, and subdued and discreet facial cosmetics worn in “good taste.”

The volunteers are barred from using department computers to log onto social media websites, and they are barred from posting pictures of police department exhibits or personnel in uniform on social media websites without Porter’s permission.

Cell phone use is also not allowed to interfere with the volunteers work for the department.