Volunteer COPS will be eyes and eyes for the sheriff

Handicapped-parking violators should beware of the 24 volunteer Citizens On Patrol (COPs) in Kitsap County. They can issue citations to scofflaws who park in the wrong places. - Courtesy of Kitsap County Volunteer Services
Handicapped-parking violators should beware of the 24 volunteer Citizens On Patrol (COPs) in Kitsap County. They can issue citations to scofflaws who park in the wrong places.
— image credit: Courtesy of Kitsap County Volunteer Services

Modeled after a successful national program, Kitsap County’s “Citizens On Patrol” — better known as “COPs” — has been bolstering the presence of law enforcement since spring.

“These volunteers provide an extra set of eyes and ears for the patrol division of the Sheriff’s Office,” said Pete Ball, the community resource officer for the Sheriff. “This program saves taxpayers a huge amount of money because they are doing things that don’t require commissioned deputies that, without them, wouldn’t get done.”

Thirteen volunteers from all walks of life recently completed classroom training for the COPs program and are in the midst of field training. That means they are riding around in a county-issued van with more seasoned COPs volunteers to get a feel for their duties.

According to Ball, they are required to serve at least 10 hours a month in Kitsap communities to remain active in the program.

That doesn’t pose a problem, since COPs is so popular.

Kitsap County Volunteer Services Coordinator Jan Koske says “I don’t really have to put the word out about the program,” Koske said. “They just come to me.”

COPs volunteers are best known for their work in enforcing disabled parking laws. It’s not an uncommon sight to see COPs volunteers, clad in their green and gray uniforms, writing tickets for violators.

COPs volunteers also perform checks on homes while owners are on vacation, they verify vehicle identification numbers on junked cars and trucks before they’re hauled away, and they can direct traffic during special events. They might be seen at the Kitsap County Fair or directing traffic around an accident scene.

Ball said COPs are great patrolling neighborhoods. If they see something suspicious they are required to call deputies.

Volunteers can set up speed reader boards in neighborhoods where residents complain about speeding problems.

Supporters say their efforts in general increase the visibility of the Sheriff’s Office.

“They are truly another set of eyes and ears,” Koske agreed.

The COPs program is an expansion of a fledgling group started in 1999. That group was known as the Kitsap County Sheriff Office’s Disabled Parking Enforcement Volunteers.

During the prior year, Silverdale resident Ed Ferris successfully lobbied for legislation that provided volunteers with the authority to enforce disabled parking regulations.

Ferris had said he “got fed up with seeing able-bodied people violating the law by using disabled parking spaces for their own convenience.”

From there, the group’s vision and scope grew into what it is today.

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