Prairie Village police are in the process of training the first recruits in a new program they hope will allow sworn officers to stay on patrol and focused on crime prevention.
Police Chief Wes Jordan told the Prairie Village City Council earlier this week that the department was moving forward with the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program that had been in the planning stages for several months. Through the program, graduates of the department’s Citizens Police Academy course and retired police officers will be eligible to train as police service volunteers.
After completing the training course and passing a background check and modified physical, the volunteers will work shifts carrying out duties that sometimes take officers on patrol away from their districts. These duties include: traffic direction, vehicle lockouts, house watch checks, car seat installations and motorist assists, among others.
“An officer could get a call for a vehicle lockout, and that would take him away from patrol for 10 to 20 minutes,” Jordan said. “We’ve often had residents approach us and ask if there’s any way they can help. Until now, we haven’t had the mechanism to let them do that.”
Jordan stresses that volunteers in the program will not be armed and will have no enforcement powers. They’ll be issued “soft uniforms” that will make them easily identifiable as volunteers, he said.
“This is a docile role,” Jordan told the council. “If the volunteers see something suspicious happening, they are supposed to remain in their vehicles. There won’t be any ‘citizen’s arrest’ type of actions.”
The first two volunteers in the program are currently undergoing training, Jordan said, and are expected to be eligible to work their first shifts later this summer.