Dinuba volunteer police program saves the city $63,000 in funds, addresses statewide staffing shortages for Dinuba police officers
DINUBA – Through their dedication to the city, volunteer police officers have saved the city in more ways than one.
At Dinuba’s Feb. 28 council meeting, Lieutenant Thaddeus Ashford presented council with a check signifying money saved by the city through Dinuba’s volunteer police program. For 2022, volunteers saved the city $63,520 with 1,588 hours of volunteer time by taking care of minor jobs that free up more time for Dinuba’s officers to take care of other duties.
“Most of our volunteers work full time jobs and have families that they take care of,” Ashford said to council. “However, they still find the time to come out and volunteer for the city of Dinuba.”
The volunteer police program started at the Dinuba Police Department in 2007 by Lieutenant Russel Son, who is retiring this April. He is the former coordinator of the program but because he is readying for retirement, Ashford has taken it over. According to Ashford, over the 16 year period that Son ran the program, over 52,916 hours have been documented, saving the city approximately $1.6 million dollars in police service.
The program has 15 volunteers who offer up their time to assist the city’s police department with jobs that include monitoring events like parades and concerts, park patrols for large-scale events like the annual Ag Expo, doing Christmas-time patrols in stores and more. They also assist in the office with record sorting and paperwork runs to the Tulare County District Attorney’s office.
“The program builds relationships with us and the community, it gives them a chance to get involved, and then we benefit from the relationships and from getting the service,” Ashford said.
As staffing shortages are experienced by police departments across the state, the Dinuba Police Department is no exception. Ashford said police precincts all over are always looking for more officers to hire, but having these volunteers helps ease the workflow at Dinuba’s department.
“A police officer would have to do all those things and it would be pulling them away from their other duties,” Ashford said. “We can do more with less because we have them.”
Volunteers for the program include Mike Smith, Jose Barbosa, Jaime Zuniga, Leanne Zuniga, Jim Susee, Robert Garcia, Aaron Gomes, Aurora Nelson, Arcenia Villegas, Ronald Pearson, Blanca Garcia, Juan Ramos, Richard Dion, Antonio Martinez and Brian Nelson. Seven volunteers received awards from the United States Presidential Service Award, which honors members of the program for different levels of achieved hours within a single year of service.
The awards are granted in bronze, silver, gold and presidential levels. The bronze level award was received by the program’s treasurer Jamie Zuniga, secretary Leanne Zuniga, president Aaron Gomes, along with members Aurora Nelson, Arcenia Villegas and Brian Nelson. Robert Garcia, the program’s vice president and also a police chaplain for the department, received a silver level award.
For the awards, the bronze level is given for volunteers who dedicate 100 to 249 hours. The silver level is granted for 250 to 499 hours and the gold level is awarded to those who volunteer 500 or more hours. There is also an award called the Presidential “Call to Service Lifetime Award,” which is granted for 4,000 or more hours.
A former volunteer police officer who passed away this year, retired Dinuba police sergeant Robert Canales, was a recipient of the “Call to Service Lifetime Award” in 2010. Canales was a part of the volunteer service for over 15 years and during his tenure, dedicated over 19,433 hours of his time to the police department. According to Ashford, he received the gold level volunteer award every single year he was in the program.