The Lodi Partners Program has saved the police department more than $2 million since the program's creation seven years ago.
But it's not about money.
The volunteer program is about senior citizens giving back to their community and gaining satisfaction in helping officers with daily tasks.
Today, with anywhere from 90 to 100 volunteers at any given time, there are more Partners than there are sworn police officers in the department the program is affiliated with.
In the first year alone, the Partners logged 13,153 volunteer hours which is equivalent to hiring six to seven full-time personnel.
In 2000, their 25,903 volunteer hours added up to 12.5 full-time staff members.
The program started when 17 members graduated from the first 40-hour training academy on Dec. 6, 1993. Since then, there have been more than 10 academies conducted.
It was the brainchild of Lodian Walter Pruss, who saw that the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department had its STARS program that allowed senior volunteers to assist in various field and office duties.
Jeanie Biskup, supervisor of the police volunteers, has also been part of the program since its inception.
"They're a fun group," she said. "But it's not always a thankful job."
Motorists often yell at Partners who are directing traffic, Biskup said.
But the Partners "keep coming back," she said.
"and they're not even getting paid for it. It takes a special person to do that."
|Partner Duane Carlson writes a report Thursday on one
of three cars found abandoned on Railroad Avenue in Lodi. (Jennifer
Duties of the volunteers vary widely.
In addition to patrolling city streets, parks and schools, they serve as additional eyes and ears for the department and provide information and assistance to the community in a variety of ways.
Assignments include handing out handicapped parking citations, towing illegally parked vehicles, working at the front desk, doing fingerprinting, driving the SWAT team van, directing traffic following a vehicle accident, maintaining department vehicles, towing abandoned cars, making vacation checks and handling special events, such as this week's Oooh Ahhh Festival at Lodi Lake.
An average day begins with each Partner coming into the small office at the back of the police station for his or her daily assignment, Biskup said.
On Tuesday, for example, she had to send a Partner to the Department of Justice in Ripon to deliver evidence and another to the county jail in French Camp to pick up evidence.
There was found property to be retrieved and children, whose parents had been arrested, who needed to be baby-sat.
Another Partner's help was required for translating, and an officer's vehicle had to be taken in for maintenance.
"It's endless, from one call to the next," Biskup said. "Everything we do, officers once did."
In sum, Partners help with anything to free up officers to do other things such as responding to 911 calls and enforcing the rules of the road.
Like police, Partners are on call 24 hours a day, ready to help with a major vehicle accident or police incident.
"They're amazing," Biskup said.
On Wednesday, 36 of the volunteers gave up their holiday to help with the Oooh Ahhh Festival. They directed traffic, monitored entrances and checked bags for alcohol.
Partner Joy Dawson was one of those who braved the 107-degree temperatures to volunteer her time on the Fourth.
She became a Partner six years ago when she retired and moved to Lodi from Stockton.
"It was a great way to meet people," Dawson said. "It's kind of a payback for living in such a wonderful city."
Her duties vary, but she mainly works one day a week at the program's front desk. In the past, she has been called out to crime scenes and worked with the department's detectives.
"Anything they need me to do, I try to do," Dawson said.
For three-year Partners Duane Carlson and Harold Linde, being involved gives them something to do in retirement, they said.
"I wanted to be a part of something," said Linde, a lifelong Lodi resident.
He retired and less than a year later enlisted as a police volunteer.
Today, he is in charge of the department's shredding and occasionally goes out on patrol looking for abandoned vehicles.
Carlson said his jobs vary from week to week. In the past, he has worked on police stings and DUI checkpoints.
"It's fun," he said. "We get to work with the people, and a lot of the officers are close to us because we help them out."
On Thursday, the two, who went through the volunteer academy together, were having abandoned vehicles towed along Railroad Avenue when they helped a woman whose fan belt broke push her car out of the street.
"We get a lot of feedback from citizens because we help them out," Linde said.
The program has received letters from residents thanking its volunteers who occasionally even get a verbal "thank you" while walking down the street.
"The most important part of the Partners Program is to promote good will and make a connection between the officers and the public," Dawson said.
Internally, the program is respected by the police officers.
"They have earned that," Biskup said.
The program has received several awards throughout the years.
In 1996, former Gov. Pete Wilson honored it with a Helen Putnam Award for Excellence for public safety. More than 200 programs were nominated for the statewide honor, and Lodi was one of 26 selected.
The previous year, the program received a Golden Rule Award, sponsored by J.C. Penney Co. Inc. to honor volunteers across the country.
Lodi's Partners must be age 50 or older, have a clean criminal record and valid driver's license, pass a background check and be able to volunteer 16 hours each month.
They also must buy their own $100 uniform.
The academy's classroom training includes learning about gangs and narcotics, traffic control, public relations and radio communications.
There is additional ongoing monthly training, depending on the volunteer's specialty.
For more information about the Partners program, or to become a police volunteer, contact Biskup at (209) 333-6864, or visit the Partners Web site.
Applications can also be picked up at the police department, 230 W. Elm St.
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