….Agencies Shoot for National Recognition for your VIPS Program!

The IACP in partnership with the BJA, Bureau of Justice Assistance, sets guidelines for the VIPS programs across the USA. The purpose of this program is to provide an opportunity for citizens who want to support law enforcement agencies by offering their time and skills.  By utilizing the services of volunteers, state, local, campus, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies can enhance and expand their resources to the communities they serve while saving a lot of money especially when there are so many cutbacks in so many areas.

And NOW is the time for agencies who have had programs in place for at least one year, and who have more than one volunteer, to apply for the IACP/Bodywork Leadership in Law Enforcement Volunteer Programs Award.  June 1st is the last day to submit the completed entry forms by email. Time is short, so don’t delay!

If you think you have a good program, well-managed, successful, innovative, and highly effective at integrating volunteers with the police department and with the community, then your VIPS program has all the elements of excellence that IACP is looking for and wants to reward.  Just take the time to download the guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to the IACP Conference in Philadelphia. One person from each of the three top agencies, will receive $500 in travel expenses, free registration, and a free 3-night stay at the host hotel, in addition to the well earned Volunteer Program Award.

IACP’s definition of a volunteer is a person who performs hours of service with NO promise, expectation, or receipt of payment or compensation.  What better way to show your agency’s appreciation for the work your volunteers do, than to recognize them with a national award from one of the most prestigious police organizations in the U.S.A

George W. Bush Called for Volunteers

After 9/11, the president in his State of the Union Address in 2002 urged citizens to serve a cause greater than themselves.  At that time Citizen Corp was created; it gave citizens an opportunity to step forward and share their time, energy, and expertise with their communities.  An offshoot of this organization is the VIPS program that specifically allows volunteers to support law enforcement agencies.

Start a VIP Program

IACP has all the information you need to start up or fine tune a program at your local police department. It should be noted that many departments already had volunteer programs in place and that fact should be recognized.  IACP is certainly not calling for the renaming of any of them.  All sorts of programs give enthusiastic citizens an opportunity to volunteer, some as explorer posts, as chaplains, on neighborhood watch, on citizen advisory boards, as dispatch agents, and in general services.

No matter what the level of the established volunteer program already in place, IACP provides publications, video trainings, and even a podcast at no charge to help groups proceed under their guidance, offering numerous ways to either set up a VIPS program or to improve an established program already in place.

The Model Policy

IACP has laid out a very detailed procedure regarding the formation and administration of a VIPS program which includes establishing policy and administrative procedures, recruitment screening and selection considerations, trainings, disciplinary procedures, and evaluations.  Any department is well on its way to setting up an efficiently run, functional VIPS organization by adhering to the IACP guidelines. An application form for volunteers has been created by the organization’s coordinators that explains the scope of the program, as well as, the overall administrative management of it. It is located it the publication section of the IACP site under Model Policy for VIPS; therefore, Police Departments that are looking for volunteers do not need to devise one.

Volunteers Add Value While Budgets Decrease

In April 2011, IACP published the results of a survey showing how the economical crisis affects law enforcement agencies. It was found that more than half of the respondents had to reduce their budgets by 5%, a quarter by 10% which equated to layoffs, furloughs, hiring freezes, loss of speciality units, cutbacks in trainings and services, and reduction of the acquisition of new equipment.  What better time to introduce VIPS programs.  Dedicated, trained volunteers who give their time, were more than willing to pick up the slack caused by cutbacks. Because of volunteers, professional officers are then free to pursue specific police duties, while volunteers ‘stayed home.’ Volunteers fill a real need in department; they are not a luxury; they are force multipliers.

In Real Terms: How Much are Volunteers Worth?

The financial return of volunteers and what they bring to a department in time and services can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.  In 2009, and IACP study showed that while budgets decreased the number of volunteers remained steady, or in some cases, even increased.  In a later study, Policing in the 21st Century, ⅓ of participants reported they had to further reduce their budgets by 10%.  More and more departments are using volunteers to provide additional services, otherwise the public would have to wait for them or even be without them.  Volunteers can also act as community liaisons that support agency activities and work directly with the private sector raising public awareness for police involvement.

Today there are more than 2,180 law enforcement agencies that use over 244,000 volunteers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor showed that in 2010 the national average of hourly volunteer return was $21.36.  That is a huge amount of money when multiplied by all of the volunteers times the hours they give freely!

Agency Costs of a VIP Program

While volunteers work ‘for free,” there are agency costs when implementing a program.  But in almost all cases, the benefits and financial savings, outweigh the initial overall costs. Because any VIP program is part of the law enforcement agency itself, there must be a coordinator who sets up and oversees the operation.  A paid professional will initially, at least, screen applicants.  Then there are trainings, supplies, equipment, and uniforms to be considered.  And because volunteers do not get a salary for their efforts, some sort of recognition is required to say “Thank You!” in the form of small plaques, dinners, etc., all of which cost money.

How to Raise Money for VIPS and Police Departments

There are several ways to offset additional expenses of a VIP program and to supplement the budget of an agency, and often, it is the volunteers, themselves, who have to ‘find’ the money.   Fundraising activities, solicitations and donations, and a search for grants are the most common ways that volunteers raise money to support agencies that are underfunded.

In May 2011, the VIPS website question of the month was: “How is your volunteer program funded?”  277 volunteer coordinators responded indicating that a quarter of the money received was from federal grants, while the remaining funds were contributions and donations by the public and corporations, and then their own fundraising.


www.grants.gov

If your law enforcement agency, like thousands of others across our nation, needs to supplement its budget, then start looking for extra money at www.grants.gov .  As they say, “It’s a very good place to start!” This site is a central resource set up by the US government to help police department and other qualified agencies find the money they need and how to apply for it.  This storehouse lists more than 1,000 grant programs with access to 500 Billion (Billion a B) in annual giveaways. All government agencies have their own budgets and allocated within those set budget are funds to that are set aside to promote their agendas and to support their missions.  There are 26 different federal grant-providing agencies!  All you have to do is ‘look for’ and ‘find’ the money.  It’s out there!

The U.S Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs (OJP) even offers a Grants 101 guide which assists state and local government and agencies by giving them the information they need on how to apply for a grant and how to secure one.  This guide explains all the particulars about grants, their life cycles and explains the types of fundings a group can receive and for what purpose.  It’s made as easy as possible for those agencies in need to get some money to support their activities.

Remember…there are 26 agencies offering ‘big’ grant money and aid.  The Department of Transportation, BJA, Department of Homeland Security, and so many, many more have funds to just give away once your agency qualifies.

VIPS Programs Around the USA

So many volunteers groups have shared in IACP surveys so that relevant statistics and information can be passed on to others.  In addition, community after community have set up VIPS programs that are giving valuable services to their local police departments. Some VIP programs are so well organized, like the one in Fredericksburg, Texas, that it even has it own Citizens’ Police Academy in which to train volunteers, as well as Volunteer Patrol Vehicles, complete with police lights.  As more and more cuts occur in law enforcement agencies, there is more and more of a need for volunteers to come to the aid of their communities in service and in expertise.  As IACP emphasizes: “Volunteers are intended to supplement and support, rather than supplant, sworn officers and civilian personnel.”

References:

Volunteers in Police Service
http://www.iacp.org/vips

Fredericksburg Volunteers in Police Support
http://www.fbgtx.org/245/Fredericksburg-Volunteers-in-Police-Supp

Citizens’ Police Academy
http://www.fbgtx.org/244/Citizens-Police-Academy

Departments Turn to Volunteers
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/us/02volunteers.html