Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Community Interest” February 2011
Napa Police Service Volunteers
By Marsha Dorgan
Napa residents have a chance to be involved in the city’s police department. Napa Police, Chief Richard Melton has started a volunteer program that is open to anyone interested in devoting a few hours a month to assist the city police department in a variety of ways.
Napa Police Service Volunteers is based on a model created in 2002, following the 9/11 attacks on the United States by terrorists, leaving more than 3,500 dead in New York and Washington D.C. “We are looking to engage the community in the department’s mission of serving and protecting our city,” Melton said in a press release. “We would like to identify individuals who are willing to help with administrative duties and support our school resource officers.” Melton also added that the goal is to expand the program. Chris Pieper, director of the Napa Police Department Volunteer Program said he expects the program to up and running within just a few months. “So far we have had about 130 respondents. I have spent a lot of time interviewing the applicants,” Pieper said. “The volunteers will be chosen on their skills and abilities.”
Pieper said they want volunteers who are willing to work and who understand that confidentially is a high priority .“We want to eventually expand the program to work with the Napa Senior Center and others who need care,” Pieper said. “We also want to use the volunteers in the department’s youth services programs.” Pieper said the volunteer program is not new, “It has been in place for about 20 years. The program is open to anyone 18 years or older.
“The volunteers have to commit to work 10 hours a month,” he said. Pieper said he has had people of all age groups apply. “We have younger people who are interested in a law enforcement career, to retirees who apply,” he said. “There have also been responses from people who are unemployed.” Future plans include the volunteers supporting neighborhood watch, patrols and checking on homes for residents on vacation, community outreach programs, crowd control at community events, follow-up contacts on minor’s crimes, truancy and disaster response, Melton said.
Volunteers will be required to complete an application, including fingerprinting, and submit to a background check. They must also attend an eight-hour volunteer academy. Although none of the perspective volunteers were available for contact, several Napa residents were willing to give comments on the program. Bonnie Smith said she had never heard of the program. “But I really think it is a wonderful idea, especially now when cities are facing such (drastic budget cuts),” Smith said. “If I didn’t have a full-time job and three kids, I might think of volunteering myself. ”Jerry Wright also had praise for the program. “I think it is really great when the community wants to pitch in and help their city. I have a brother who is a police officer in Southern California. Sometimes the job is really tough for him. But he loves what he does.”
The volunteer program is funded through a Federal Justice Assistance grant that pays for advertising and materials. It also pays for Pieper’s part-time salary. Anyone wanting more information may call Pieper at 257-9353.