A Citizens On Patrol "COP" meeting was held at Branford town hall on Tuesday night. The spokesman for the meeting was Suwannee County Sheriff Alton K. "Al" Williams. Major Les Hall also spoke during part of the meeting. Suwannee County Commissioner Randy Hatch was also present in the audience.
The purpose of the meeting was to draw from the community, volunteers to assist the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office to be the eyes and ears for the sheriff.
Sheriff Williams said, "We're here to start a pilot program. I'm excited about getting this program up and running here in Branford, and later on it will become a countywide program. When we get this up and going you'll see this program blossom."
The volunteers will be provided with a car that will have an amber light, but no siren. They won't respond to burglaries or alarm calls. The vehicle they will be using will be a former pursuit vehicle, that has retired from the pursuits, but will have plenty of good mileage left on it.
"One of the things they can check on," said Sheriff Williams, "is to make sure there is no empty space at Terra Bello. He doesn't leave empty spaces and if there's an empty space, that means a vehicle has been stolen." Other things the volunteers can check on are wellness checks. For instance someone out of state will call the sheriff's office, asking if someone can check on their parents. They might say, "I've had no luck in reaching them by phone, can you send someone to check on them. Two people have been helped because of calls like this," said Sheriff Williams.
"Yvonne Robinson makes daily calls to certain folks, who need to be checked up on, and the volunteers can assist in this process," added the sheriff.
Volunteers can also deliver emergency messages. By doing so, they will free up a deputy for other things such as a robbery investigation.
Volunteers can assist with funeral escorts, and in this case their amber light can be used.
"They can wait at accident scenes, and direct traffic at accidents, and they can use their amber lights here too," said Sheriff Williams.
The car the volunteers use will have a two way radio.
Volunteers are asked to donate 8 hours a month. "It's time to give back some of those God given gifts to the community," said Sheriff Williams.
County Commissioner Randy Hatch said, "The volunteer program works quite well in the county. Our zoning board is all volunteers."
Applications for volunteering for the COP program are available through the Town Hall. Some were left with Town Clerk, Lori Frierson; and Commissioner Randy Hatch also has applications for volunteers.
Volunteers must be at least 21 years old, and in good health. They must have never been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude. Finger prints will be on file with the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office, and a criminal history report will be completed. Major Les Hall said, "The applicant must have a clean driving record, with no moving violations within the past 12 months, and no more than three moving violations in a lifetime." They will be required to complete a 40 hour training course designed for the volunteer program which includes safe vehicle operation, radio operation procedures, incident reporting procedures, 911 map instruction, traffic direction techniques, and criminal law.
The training procedure will also familiarize them with the sheriff's office dispatch center, jail facility, patrol operations, victim/witness services, and court services operations.
Applications must be submitted in person or by mail to Suwannee County Sheriff's Office, 200 South Ohio, Suwannee County Courthouse, Live Oak, FL 32064.
After submitting the application and a preliminary background is completed, volunteers will be contacted to arrange an appointment to have their fingerprints taken at the Suwannee County Jail.