With many part-time and seasonal police officers, such as Eileen Rossi, right, the small Oak Creek Police Department is seeking volunteers through a federal program to help fill the void.
Steamboat Springs To help free up Oak Creek's small police force for more traditional law enforcement duties, the police department is seeking local volunteers to help with clerical and support duties. The effort is part of the federal Volunteers in Police Service program.
Even a small force of volunteers can be particularly helpful in communities such as Oak Creek, where support staff is limited and many police officers work part time, police Chief Russ Caterinicchio said. A single volunteer doing a few hours of filing each week relieves a sworn officer from taking time off patrol to do the same tasks, he said.
The Volunteers in Police Service program, which is underwritten by the Department of Justice, was established in 2002 to provide additional support and resources to community law enforcement agencies and help fill gaps in homeland security efforts, according to the program's Web site.
Volunteers with the Oak Creek Police Department will do mostly clerical work, including filing, record keeping, maintaining police archives and shredding documents, but may also be tasked with assisting with grant writing, servicing police equipment, the DARE program and other special projects, Caterinicchio said.
"We'll be looking forward to them helping with police record keeping and care of our vehicles," Caterinicchio said.
Caterinicchio previously helped create a similar volunteer force at the Lone Tree Police Department and said he wants to bring that model to South Routt.
Volunteers are asked to commit at least four hours a week for six months, and they will go through the same screening process and background checks as sworn police officers. They also will be required to undergo confidentiality training because volunteers may handle sensitive documents.
The VIPS program in Oak Creek likely will be extended from law enforcement to town government.
"Town Hall is desperate for help, too," Caterinicchio said.
Oak Creek could use help answering phones at Town Hall, and is working to mitigate privacy concerns in the process. But one of the biggest areas the town could use volunteers is with cleaning, Town Clerk Karen Halterman said.
Town Hall employees currently clean the building themselves, and volunteers taking over that responsibility would be some of the greatest help they could provide, she said.
Although most volunteers in the VIPS program will be adults, students from Soroco High School also are being targeted to help code an upcoming community survey. The data collected in the survey will be used by the Oak Creek Police Department for future grant applications and in developing a five-year plan for the department, Caterinicchio said.
Anyone interested in the program should contact the Oak Creek Police Department at 736-8355.