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Don’t see enough sheriff’s units? Be a volunteer

NORTH END — The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Citizens on Patrol unit is looking for a few good folks who don’t mind helping others — particularly from the North End.

The job is full of interesting perks, such as driving around in an old deputy’s car, wearing a uniform and getting out into the community. Plus, after all the training that COP volunteers go through, they tend to have a trained eye on what goes on in their own neck of the woods, whether on-duty or off.

But with nearly 400-square miles to cover in the county, there are only 25 volunteers on the COP unit, which is allowed to have a maximum of 40.

“Sheriff (Steve Boyer) is anxious to expand the unit to 40,” said volunteer and unit Lieutenant John Albright.

His wife, unit Sergeant Dianne Canafax, is trying to change that with a push for more volunteers. The goal of the unit is to have several patrols out at the same time, which only happens now on very rare occasions.

To be a COP volunteer, the minimum time requirements are patrolling eight hours a month and attending a two-hour training meeting once a month, for a commitment of one year.

“But most of us enjoy it and do it more than that,” Canafax said, noting that some of the volunteers will do as much as 60-70 hours a month. The average length of a shift is six to eight hours and while some do just one shift a week, others will do two shifts or more a week.

During their patrols, the volunteers complete a variety of jobs, including looking for disabled person parking violations, checking on homes whose residents are on vacation, following up on junk and abandoned car requests and setting up speed reader boards. They also help out wherever their assistance is needed in the community, such as helping officers re-route traffic at the scene of an accident.

Training includes learning the signs of suspicious activity, such as how to detect methamphetamine labs. That increases their on-the-job savvy, which can help deputies further in solving crimes in Kitsap County.

The nice thing about being a volunteer, Canafax said, is if they show up at a location where they don’t feel comfortable, they can back out and call for a deputy.

Within the unit, there are four officer positions that have been established primarily for administrative reasons. Albright, the unit lieutenant, processes the paperwork and does follow up calls for junk cars requests. Canafax, as the unit sergeant, is in charge of recruitment, coordinating training classes and keeping track of volunteer hours. The remaining two positions are captain and corporal. The unit is overseen by KCSO deputy and Community Resources Officer Pete Ball.

As part of the push to recruit more volunteers, both Canafax and Albright would like to see more people from the North End get involved as well as more women volunteers.

“I think it’s a fun thing to do and I don’t think enough women know about it,” Canafax said.

It’s important to have women on the unit because, as Albright has experienced while on duty with a woman partner, female citizens tend to approach uniformed women more than uniformed men with questions or concerns, such as about domestic violence issues.

Both said they prefer to remember the positive rather than the negative situations they come across, such as helping a couple get home safely, doorbelling a neighborhood in search of an elderly women who was missing for a few days and being able to comfort kids with blankets and teddy bears at the scene of an accident.

“It’s the sort of things you remember that makes it all worthwhile,” Albright said.

The units not only act as eyes and ears of the deputies but their presence also lets residents know that the KCSO is out and about.

“It’s a good opportunity for the Sheriff’s (Office) to be out and seen,” he said.

The work of the unit has been paying off, he added, as in the last three years that the couple has been part of the unit, they have noticed an increase in compliance with handicap parking.

“I think (it’s) because the unit has done a superb job in educating the community,” Albright said.

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