Opinion

Be a VIP and make a difference in the community | Editor's Notebook

It’s been years since I’ve lived in a city where the police department checks your home while you’re on vacation. It was Lakewood, Calif., in the 1960s, back in the day when it was safe to leave the front door open at night (we locked the screen door, of course) to catch more of the coastal evening breeze.

Advance 45 years and eight presidencies: Vacation checks are still a real service in Poulsbo. While people don’t leave their front doors cracked open at night — in Poulsbo or Lakewood —  they can still leave town for a spell, knowing all is safe at home in Little Norway.

It’s one of the many services provided by the Poulsbo Police Department through the VIPs — Volunteers in Police Service. VIPs are an important part of the department. They patrol neighborhoods and schools and report suspicious activity, look for lost children and runaways, ticket cars parked illegally in spaces reserved for handicapped drivers, assist with traffic control during major events like Viking Fest.

Their work frees up officers, detectives and sergeants so they can concentrate on more serious stuff. Not that the VIPs’ work isn’t serious, but I think you know what I mean.

“They’re another set of eyes and ears out there,” Deputy Police Chief Wendy Davis. “Many times when they’re out there in their VIP cars, they see something happen and call 911 and let us know what’s going on. That aspect alone is great. And the visibility is great. People see the car and think twice about speaking on their cell phone while driving.”

Officer Ricki Sabado, who works with the VIPs, added, “They are a great asset for City of Poulsbo and the Police Department.”

Barbara Parsons and Bobbi Wiprud have each been VIPs for 10 years; Parsons is now the volunteer coordinator and Wiprud is the events coordinator. On patrol together, they’ve directed traffic at crash scenes and once assisted officers at the scene of a fatality. In the Deer Run area, they saw a person who fit the description of a suspect wanted for drugs and called it in. Officers arrived to make the arrest.

Recently, they came upon a domestic dispute on Front Street. They called it in and officers were soon on the scene.

How would you like to make a difference like that in the community? Here’s your chance: The VIP program needs more volunteers. Davis said the VIP corps has about eight members. The department hopes to recruit at least 20 more.

VIPs are not paid. But Sabado said they get training and a uniform and, while on patrol, a car, all at department expense. There is no age limit — Sabado said VIPs can be age 21 to 81. The training and experience is valuable; one VIP is now a reserve officer.

First, you fill out an application at the police department at City Hall. The department will do a background check. Next, you’ll go on a ride along and interview with Sabado and Sgt. Andy Pate, then Chief Dennis Swiney. If you’re accepted into the program, you get your uniform. You’ll be trained in CPR, radio use, and other necessary aspects.

VIPs always patrol in pairs. “You never go out alone,” Sabado said. “If one VIP doesn’t show up, the other doesn’t go out.” VIPs code in and code out just like officers do, and CenCom radios VIPs hourly for status checks.

If there is a potentially dangerous situation or possibility of a confrontation, VIPs call 911 and let police handle it.

“When in doubt, call for backup,” Parsons said. “The officers always have our backs.”

If you’d like to make a difference in just a few hours a week — like Parsons, Wiprud, Sergey Kirtley, Bill Lantz, Joe Matot, Jim Norman, Duane Titterness and Gil Ulibarra — visit the PD or call 779-3113.

 

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