Placer streamlines community services |

Placer streamlines community services

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunCommunity Services Officers Melinda Maehler and Kristin Mann bridge the gap between the Sheriff's department and the community. The two officers were recently assigned their own cars and bikes to increase visibility.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Department has a specialized department that focuses on community relations rather than criminal violations.

While the Placer County Sheriff’s Youth and Community Services Division is not entirely new, community services officers are the link between the sheriff’s department and the public ” and they want the public’s help.

Five officers staff the Youth and Community Services division of the Tahoe sheriff’s substation, headed by Sgt. Helen Thompson. They work to coordinate partnerships between the public and law enforcement officials in an effort to better the community as a whole.

Because staffing in Tahoe is limited, Sheriff Deputy Dave Hunt said community service officers can sometimes fill in for sworn officers who get called off to somewhere else.

“The whole community should know we have two community services officers,” said Hunt. “It’s about developing community partnerships. The community services officer bridges the gap between the sheriff’s office and the citizens.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Granum said administrators streamlined the functions of the community services department this winter.

“Instead of being burdened with routine patrol calls, [community services officers] have the ability to take care of certain problems in the school system, abandoned cars or hazardous situations,” Granum said.

Additionally, the officers are now outfitted with bicycles and vehicles of their own.

“The bikes are to be more exposed to the public view. Also, to be a part of the business community. When you see officers on bikes, it’s a more friendly approach,” said Placer Deputy Dave Hunt.

Granum agrees that a “moving office” benefits not only the officers, but the public, too.

“It’s to ensure they get where they need to go, meetings and such that they attend, especially after-hours. Also, with the bikes they are getting right into the community ” farmers markets, concerts, Mexican Independence Day,” Granum said.

Community Services Officer Kristin Mann is based in Kings Beach, speaks six languages and works closely with the Latino community. She operates programs like “Un Mundo Diferente,” teaching immigrants about California and U.S. laws, “Cops and Coffee,” and helps facilitate Toys for Tots and events with Creciendo Unidos.

“I’m the bridge between the Latino community, the sheriff’s office and other county agencies,” Mann said.

Mann’s Tahoe City counterpart, Community Services Officer Melinda Maehler, works out of North Tahoe middle and high schools to develop safety and awareness programs about drug use, seatbelts, helmets and drunk driving, for example.

By working with young citizens, Maehler can head off problems deputies would have to face later on, Thompson said.

Community services officers also help the Placer sheriff’s department in several other ways, such as translation services for patrol calls or event coordination, officials said.

“They are support staff for the entire station,” said Hunt.

School Resource Officer Russ Potts, Sgt. Thompson and Deputy Hunt also work in the community services department as sworn peace officers.

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