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Volunteers help Federal Way police programs thrive
Volunteers raise the effectiveness of several community programs through the Federal Way Police Department.
The department is looking to add volunteers to its current 52-member team, helping with anything from monitoring surveillance cameras and recording fingerprints to recovering abandoned shopping carts and moving police decoy cars.
SafeCity involves 36 cameras throughout Federal Way that monitor various areas of the city.
The program needs volunteers to operate the cameras and review footage from the command center located in police headquarters at City Hall.
FWPD commander Chris Norman said with extra volunteers on board, the effectiveness of the camera system would increase beyond what it’s already been able to do.
“The more operators we have, the less officers we need to have out in the field, monitoring something,” Norman said. “It is a tough job. You’re in a room, with a computer monitor. And you can currently look at 36 different cameras, and you can look at multiple cameras at the same time. If it’s one of those times where there’s nothing going on, they’re basically just doing a cyber patrol.”
“It’s a phenomenal resource to have, and unfortunately, it’s underused,” Norman added.
The fingerprinting program is an excellent resource for community members to utilize, said Laurie Jackson, Federal Way police volunteer coordinator.
“We provide fingerprint services for citizens. CPLs, employment services, and volunteers provide that service,” she said. “So without volunteers providing that, we’re unable to provide fingerprint services. But, it really takes the right person. It’s (a position) that’s during the day…you have to have dexterity to roll the fingerprints, and the visual acuity to see if you captured the detail.”
Jackson said that previous volunteers have come and go for this particular position, something that is detrimental to the detail-oriented nature of the position. Norman noted that this position does not require the volunteers to fingerprint people who have been arrested, but rather is focused on the technical and legal needs of people.
“It’s people applying to be teachers, or applying for a concealed weapons permit,” he said.
The ECAT (Empty Car Auto Theft) program is a behind the scenes program that requires volunteers to move semi-retired police vehicles around the city, Norman said. It has a slightly different schedule than most. Volunteers move the vehicles at one point in the day, and then come back and move them again later in the day. If the volunteer help isn’t available, Norman said, then those vehicles stay at police headquarters and lose their usefulness.
The team has recovered 3,456 carts and returned them to their proper owners. The effort has saved those businesses more than $483,000 in replacement costs.
“The Shopping Cart program is currently staffed with five people,” Norman said. “And that works, and it’s a functioning program. But, that’s pretty tenuous.”
With just that small force of five, Norman said the effectiveness of the shopping cart team could be greatly reduced if just one or two members were to leave the team, or were unable to participate on the days needed.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Laurie Jackson at (253) 835-6788. Anyone in the region is welcome to apply. Residency in Federal Way is not a requirement.
Applicants will undergo a background check, then submit to a polygraph examination. Jackson said these more stringent requirements are needed because of the nature of the volunteer work.
The average time commitment is two to four hours per week, but many volunteers give much more of their time. An added benefit of volunteering for the police department, Norman noted, is the fact it’s good resume fodder and opens up avenues to possible employment with the city from time to time.
Both Norman and Jackson feel the volunteer program is an excellent resource for Federal Way’s residents and the police department.
“The more the community is involved in the police department, and vice versa, the more the police department is involved in the community, I think leads to greater success overall,” Norman said.
“Our volunteers help to make the most of what we’re able to do in our community, to really augment and support our mission to make the most of our resources,” Jackson said. “That really helps us do a better job for the community to provide more.”