Something has been missing at the Mount Vernon Police Department the past few weeks.

Something that has been steadfast and present for the past 25-plus years. I am speaking of our great volunteers — a group of more than 50 committed community members who are some of most selfless people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, our volunteer cadre has been temporarily suspended from their duties. As the department’s volunteer coordinator, the void has been a big adjustment for me as well as others at the department.

We miss our volunteers dropping by the station to visit. We miss them preparing to go out on patrol to assist our officers. We miss seeing the smiles on their faces. Most of all, we miss our volunteers bringing home-baked cupcakes and cookies to the department!

We place a very high value on our volunteers at the MVPD. In the past 25 years, MVPD volunteers have donated more than 92,000 hours to the department and the Mount Vernon community.

The dollar savings to taxpayers is immense if you put an hourly rate on those donated hours. We as a department certainly couldn’t accomplish what we do each year without the help of our volunteers.

Volunteers fill a number of roles within the department. We have a citizens patrol program called Citizens on Proactive Patrol, or COPP. This year COPP is celebrating its 25th year.

Volunteers in this program act as extra eyes and ears in the community. They patrol the city in marked Citizens Patrol vehicles, which are equipment similar to those of patrol officers.

COPP members pick up found bikes, assist with vehicle lockouts, direct traffic at collision scenes, collect statement forms and assist patrol officers with a variety of other tasks and assignments.

There are specially trained members who assist our outreach coordinator with research and organizing donations, and another group that helps with dog kennel maintenance on the weekends.

COPP volunteers also are becoming more connected to the various neighborhoods in the city. Some were recently assigned to patrol zones.

Each Wednesday, a COPP volunteer assists with fingerprinting job applicants and those applying for concealed pistol licenses.

Our other volunteer group at MVPD is known as Mount Vernon Police Volunteers, or MVPV.

Volunteers in this group provide vacation house checks, assist with filing and purging of paperwork, compile statistics and a variety of other things that assist and support our records, patrol and criminal investigations divisions.

Like many organizations, the COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on operations. One of the biggest impacts is the void created by not having our volunteers around.

We hope for this void to be a thing of the past in the very near future.

Thank you to all MVPD volunteers, past and present. We miss you and look forward to seeing you all soon.

Also, thanks to all the other volunteers in our community. The world is a better place because of you!

— Brent Thompson is a sergeant in the Mount Vernon Police Department.

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