Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
Citizen Corpsí Volunteers In Police Service (VIPs) Launch May 30, 2002 (Note: The Attorney General Often Deviates from Prepared Remarks)
Thank you, Deborah. Good morning, everyone, and welcome.
First, I would like to commend Deborah Daniels for the outstanding work she has done in spearheading the development of the Justice Departmentís Citizen Corps programs.
She has worked hard to ensure that these programs build on the knowledge and experience of state and local law enforcement agencies and also provide enriching opportunities for volunteers.
I also want to thank Mayor Kerry Donley and the Alexandria City Council, Chief Charles Samarra and the Alexandria Police Department for hosting us today, as well as William Berger, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, for developing the extraordinary online materials that are the cornerstone of this program.
I am also very pleased to have John Bridgeland with me today. John and his staff at the White House USA Freedom Corps Office have been working closely with Deborah Daniels and the Office of Justice Programs on the development and implementation of this initiative.
We have gathered today to honor the commitment of our nationís law enforcement officers, who dedicate every day to protecting their fellow citizens. The tragic events of September 11 have given us an even greater appreciation for the role they play in our lives. On that fateful day, hundreds of law enforcement officers sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others. And since that day, officers across the country have been called to perform duties above and beyond their regular responsibilities. They have responded to terrorist threats, have assisted federal law enforcement with efforts to coordinate homeland security, and have helped to mend broken communities.
Today, we applaud the commitment of law enforcement officers that further serve their communities by promoting the work of volunteers through programs such as Volunteers in Police Service, or V-I-Ps. These volunteers assist officers in performing non-sworn duties such as preparing incident reports, answering phones, compiling crime data, and facilitating crime prevention programs. Though the work may not be glamourous, it is essential: the efforts of these volunteers enable officers to stay on the front lines where they are most needed.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush called on all Americans to commit ourselves to the service of our neighbors and our nation, inviting us all to participate in the USA Freedom Corps. He told us that "this time of adversity offers a unique moment of opportunity -- a moment we must seize to change our culture." And he specifically called on Americans to assist local police and fire departments in their ever-vigilant effort to protect their fellow citizens.
The Citizen Corps, part of the USA Freedom Corps, has answered the Presidentís call by implementing the VIPs (Volunteers In Police Service) initiative. The program is the first to bring together law enforcement volunteer programs around the country to share resources and support each otherís activities. Through this national effort, we are seeking to assist all state and local law enforcement agencies in three main areas:
- We will work to increase the number of law enforcement volunteers,
- we will help agencies identify components of their programs to expand or improve, and
- we will assist agencies without a VIPs program to get one started.
Volunteers in Police Service (VIPs) is not a new concept -- in fact, volunteers have long contributed to a departmentís ability to keep communities safe. For example, Ruby Fitzgerald is a volunteer right here in Alexandria. She started volunteering in 1986. Mrs. Fitzgeraldís family has a legacy of law enforcement service: her great uncle and her uncle were both Texas Rangers, and her great uncle was among the first marshals assigned to the Montana Territory. She serves in the Alexandria Police Departmentís Crime Prevention Unit and performs a number of essential administrative tasks, such as answering phone calls, handling citizen requests, and helping with special events.
Another exemplary volunteer at the Alexandria Police Department is Rodrigo Guajardo. Mr. Guajardo has been a volunteer since 1984, and began riding with patrol officers as a Spanish translator. He now organizes the Spanish translator ride-along schedule, and also works with the Automated Systems Division, writing computer database programs and assisting with software engineering.
Because every department has different needs, each VIPs (Volunteers in Police Service) program varies, depending on the number of volunteers serving and the activities in which they are involved. The San Diego Police Department, for example, has 960 volunteers who range in age from 18 to 80 years old. The department provides them extensive training, and then volunteers can do anything from helping officers prepare crime reports, fingerprinting, and translating, to staffing storefronts and satellite offices and developing operations manuals.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland -- whose Chief, Thomas Shanahan, is in the audience today -- provides volunteer opportunities through participation in their Reserve Officer Program as well as their VIPs program.
Since 1983, reserve officers in Anne Arundel County have volunteered more than 338,000 hours. And last year alone, VIPs gave more than 12,000 hours of their time assisting the department.
Police Chief Charles Moose heads the Montgomery County, Maryland, department. Their VIPs program started in 1988 with just three volunteers. Since then, over 1,000 volunteers have contributed more than 500,000 hours of service. The current volunteer corps has approximately 250 people who are involved in all aspects of the department -- from training to communications.
I could spend the rest of the day telling the stories of police and sheriffís volunteers who are generously and enthusiastically donating their time in order to help safeguard their communities. VIPs is an outstanding example of a program that has something for every American who is eager to serve.
Today, we are unveiling a central website that will house information about VIPs programs nationwide in order to coordinate resources and to provide law enforcement agencies and volunteers a way to learn from and support each other. By logging on to www.policevolunteers.org, new volunteers can obtain information about existing programs, such as where they are established and what kinds of duties their volunteers perform.
Law enforcement officials can also visit the site to share information about their programs with colleagues in departments across the nation. In addition, agencies can obtain online technical assistance and information on training that will be made available through the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Department of Justice.
Before I introduce the man who will walk you through this new website, I want to acknowledge all the volunteers and law enforcement officials who are working together to protect our communities. This is a unique moment in history, and we recognize more than ever the need to supplement the tireless efforts of the officers who put themselves on the front lines every day. You have answered the Presidentís call to serve your communities. I salute you all, officers and volunteers alike, for the work you are doing.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Mr. William Berger. Mr. Berger is President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. I would like to commend him for his dedication to making our communities safer and stronger, and thank him for developing the outstanding website you are about to see.