By DALE WHITEHURST For the Redlands Community News
This year, the Redlands Police Department Citizens Volunteer Program celebrates 30 years of service.
Starting with only five members, the program has grown to as many as 65 members and is currently 45 members strong.
“The idea of a CVP Program was brought to Chief Robert Brickley in 1989 by a retired Air Force officer, Bill Hughes, who had relocated from Arizona,” said retired Chief of Police Jim Bueermann, who began his police career as a volunteer Reserve Officer. Hughes had seen citizen volunteers in Sun City.
In 1990, Lt. Clete Hyman was put in charge of forming the unit, a volunteer team of highly visible, uniformed, unarmed, “eyes and ears.”
The first CVP academy graduated in 1991. In 2007, the Volunteer Park Rangers and Mounted Patrol were incorporated into the program.
Annette and Russ Dawkins were members of the first CVP academy in 1991.
“The CVP program was like Neighborhood Watch except the entire city is your neighborhood,” Annette Dawkins recalled.
“We knew the community and our kids went to school here. It was like serving your family. Volunteering was good for the volunteers, giving a sense of worth, and good for the community because of the service provided and the safety ensured.”
Lew Nelson was chief of police from 1993 to 1998, during a change in policing philosophy throughout the nation.
Law enforcement agencies were adopting a Community Policing strategy that encouraged a community role in safety and security combining education, prevention, collaborations and partnerships, and enforcement. The CVP program was a natural fit.
“We wanted to take on tasks that we could do to free up police resources to go fight crime,” said Jim Stellar, a CV member since 1991. “At first, the officers weren’t so sure of us, but they came to appreciate our efforts.”
Cecilia Cortez, an active CV member since 1994, was involved in many police investigations in circumstances from murders to terrorism in San Bernardino.
“Citizen Volunteers are the eyes and ears in the community and have played an important role in our community.” She said the organization has members with varied backgrounds and different stages of life. “Someone who has the hours to dedicate to their community would be a great asset.”
Redlands Police Chief Chris Catren notes that while Citizen Volunteers do not take on dangerous duties like sworn officers, “they do virtually everything else. They’re involved in just about everything we do, every aspect. They’re doing it for free. Their level of dedication is just unbelievable.”
CV Coordinator Martin Lemon, a member since 2017, joined the organization to contribute to his community and meet interesting people.
“This organization has allowed me to use the skills and experience I learned working in the private sector to better our community and provide a service. My vision is to continually adapt the organization to meet the needs of the Redlands Police Department and the City of Redlands. We are constantly looking for new ways to provide value and service.
“If you like to be outside and among the community then you might like to patrol the streets, high crime areas, and our parks” Lemon said.
“If you want to see the inside workings of the many special events that take place in Redlands, then this is the place to see it. If you like to do office work and have the skill sets to match, there is probably a place for you. If you like to be around people and develop camaraderie with others then this is a great organization. We just need 16 hours per month.”
“I often refer to policing as a ‘team sport,’” Catren said. “And the Citizen Volunteers are integral players on the Redlands Police Department’s team.
“The decades of contributions from its members enable the signature events of the city such as the Bicycle Classic, the Run Through Redlands, the Christmas Parade, the Believe Walk and many more. In fact, in 2019, the volunteers donated approximately 12,000 hours to the department, which is equivalent to nearly six full-time positions. The volunteers touch every part of the department including Patrol, Investigations, Special Events, Administration, Information Technology, and Animal Services.
The Citizen Volunteer Program allows the department to provide a much higher level of public safety services, and I appreciate all that they do for our great city.
“My vision for the Citizen Volunteer Program is to continue to increase the number of active participants to deliver even better services,” Catren said. “I believe that the more we involve community members in the department, the better. Our volunteers are some of our best ambassadors and help us build trust in the community.”