The use of volunteers is predominant everywhere. From libraries to pet shelters to hospitals, volunteers are needed for businesses to run effectively. Why should police departments be any different? Police departments in North America have been gradually facing recruitment problems. In fact, 66% of police departments report seeing declining numbers of applications. In recent years, having this extra manpower has become a need, not a luxury due to the increasing budget cuts that agencies experience. Agencies are able to increase manpower, productivity, and effectiveness while on a budget. With roughly more than 244,000 volunteers in law enforcement, let’s look at the main reasons why your agency should consider having a volunteer program.
Foster Positive Relationships with the Community
For police, creating a connection with their community is an important and rewarding aspect of the job. What better way to do this than to work alongside the members of your community? Built on mutual trust and understanding, volunteers are a great way for police to gain insight into the condition of the community. Police can also spread awareness on agency goals, garnering the respect and understanding of their community.
Help Raise Additional Funding
Creating a volunteer program can be costly. Various factors to consider are training, equipment, personnel, and more. However, the return on investment can be substantial. Having a volunteer program can open up numerous opportunities for your department to raise additional funding. The main sources of funding include grants, donations, and fundraising. Below are three grants that can help your department with funding.
Created as a resource to improve government services to the public, Grants.gov holds information on more than 1,000 grant programs. By registering on this site, your program can apply for grants from 26 different federal grant-making agencies. More information can be found here.
Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
Administered by the U.S Department of Justice, the JAG Program offers formula grants that allow states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime to improve the criminal justice system. The funds can be used to pay for personnel, overtime, and equipment. More information can be found here.
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
The RSVP provides grants to qualified agencies and organizations that enroll members 55 and older in their volunteer program. More information can be found here.
One of the main advantages of having a volunteer program is the value of having extra personnel available. Understaffed police agencies mean that many of you are responding to thousands of calls each year with minimal resources and the potential to be left shorthanded when staff call in sick, require training, or go on vacation. Volunteers can be applied to a variety of important activities, such as neighborhood watch, community liaison activities, research, youth-related activities, and they can even assist with crime prevention programs. Depending on the requirements and hiring guidelines of your program, they can even be trained to perform duties that full-time officers perform. Since volunteers can cover a range of functions, this allows your full-time officers to focus on fulfilling their primary duties and perhaps provide services that may otherwise not be offered.
The financial return of a volunteer program can be substantial, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of value to agencies each year. There are so many more advantages to having a volunteer program to help your agency leverage their resources. With over 2,100 police agencies utilizing volunteers nationwide, they are a valuable tool to help your agency better support your community.