VIPS indeed: Volunteers in Police Services support Truckee Police Department | SierraSun.com

VIPS indeed: Volunteers in Police Services support Truckee Police Department

Jody Zirelli
Submitted to Truckee Sun

National Volunteer Week is coming April 15-21, and one local organization that likes to claim bragging rights is the Volunteers in Police Services (also known as the VIPS) for Truckee Police Department.

Currently there are 16 VIPS members. Since this program began in 2003, the number of members has fluctuated but the dedication has continued steadily with zeal.

They have collectively contributed over 34,300 hours of their free time. As a result they have saved the Town of Truckee $1,183,350 dollars and have been recognized by the Town of Truckee and by the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce.

Why does a volunteer donate time?

Norm Justesen joined this group because of the camaraderie with the other volunteers and with the other police officers. In 2007, he joined, and said he likes to know what is going on in his town. As a result, he feels he has a better understanding on what and why police do what they do.

Andrea Oddo, also a volunteer, liked the idea that she could do things outdoors. The Truckee Police Department VIPS get many opportunities to do just that, through Truckee Thursdays, the Fourth of July parade and fireworks, Halloween festivities, and the Christmas tree lighting every year.

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Oddo also enjoys "supporting the sworn officers in making their difficult jobs a little easier."

With limited law enforcement resources, Oddo knows the VIPS can help cover the bicycle races and special traffic events throughout the year. By the volunteers' efforts, Truckee officers are able to spend more of their valuable time handling calls for service. Additionally, by their help, volunteers help ensure vendors and participants can enjoy a safe event.

In the summer months, Oddo said there is also the popular and fun duty of boat patrol on Donner Lake. The VIPS work with an officer who proactively search for boats needing assistance, for boaters stranded on the water, and for delivering warnings or citations for proper boat safety as need be.

LEARNING ON THE JOB LEADS TO OPPORTUNITY

Besides the camaraderie and exciting venues, another reason why some volunteer is because they want to get some valued experience so they can eventually get into law enforcement.

Over time, there have been four volunteers who have successfully done just that. One recent success story is Carlos Gomez Ortiz. Ortiz was born and raised in Truckee, and was a graduate from Truckee High School. In 2016, after completing a background, he joined the VIPS. Since that time, he has been awarded a scholarship and a job as a Community Resource Officer at the University of California, Berkeley.

The members, whose ages range from their 20s to their 80s, also have quite a range of experiences. Two are a husband and wife team. Two were former captains in the Navy. One was also a former United Airlines captain. Another was the wrestling coach at Truckee High School. A few, like John Creveling, work full time as a contractor building and remodeling homes.

Another way that residents become interested in joining is when Truckee Police sponsors a Citizens Academy. One of the first graduates from the first Citizens Academy in 2003 was Gary Thomas, a retired Navy captain now serving as the Volunteer Team Leader.

Thomas said he became a volunteer because he saw it as a meaningful way of being involved in the community and a way to help out the police during snow storms, downed power lines, accidents, and so on.

"We have a great group of volunteers and we get outstanding support from the department," he said.

A chance to give back to community

Like Thomas, others have recognized that they joined the VIPS because they wanted to give their support back to the community.

"Truckee is a great community full of great people," said Jim Hemig, a recent volunteer. "We all enjoy living here. Being a volunteer is not hard and it provides a good amount of pride from helping others whether they are locals or visitors."

Anyone looking to find a productive way of investing their time, Thomas suggests they consider signing up for the Volunteers in Police Services program.

Contact Officer Randy Misch, VIPS coordinator, at rmisch@townoftruckee.com or visit http://www.townoftruckee.com/government/police/volunteers/how-to-become-a-volunteer for additional information.