Public Information Officer
VOLUSIA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM EARNS THE PRAISE OF PRESIDENT BUSH
It’s community-based policing and homeland security at its most fundamental, grassroots level, and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has been practicing it for 13 years now. The backbone of the program is a dedicated corps of volunteer eyes and ears -- largely seniors -- who work beside law enforcement to help patrol the community and deter crime.
The Sheriff’s Office’s Citizen Observer Program (COP), in fact, has been so remarkably successful that when President George W. Bush looked for a model program to promote his national campaign to boost volunteerism, he looked no further than the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
One day after publicly launching the USA Freedom Corps during his nationally-televised State of the Union Address on Jan. 29, President Bush traveled to Volusia County, in part to praise COP volunteers for selflessly working beside the Sheriff’s Office to help keep the community safe. In fact, it’s just this sort of program the President had in mind when he launched his initiative to mobilize America’s volunteer spirit. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a major thrust of the President’s initiative is to engage citizen volunteers in a coordinated effort to assist law enforcement in improving homeland security in local communities across the nation. In short, programs just like COP, also referred to as Citzens On Patrol, President Bush said in a speech in front of nearly 40 cheering Volusia County COP volunteers on Jan. 31 as part of the President’s two-day visit to Volusia County.
"There are some fantastic programs right here in Volusia County that others ought to recognize, that work. One is Citizens on Patrol," said President Bush, with his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, at his side. "More than 200 volunteers put in 51,000 hours in the year 2001, to help serve as eyes and ears of local law enforcement. If a child is missing, they help look. If something is odd, they help notice."
Launched in 1989 by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the COP program enlists citizen volunteers who act as an extra set of eyes and ears by patrolling the county in cars marked with the distinctive COP emblem and using their radios to report any suspicious activity to deputies. Unarmed and working in pairs, COP volunteers have patrolled more than 2.6 million miles since the inception of the program and also have fingerprinted more than 18,000 children for their parents’ records. The volunteers also keep watch over vacant homes and assist deputies by providing traffic control at accidents and natural disasters. In the wake of the events of Sept. 11, COP volunteers have expanded their duties to include frequent patrols by water and power plants in Volusia County to make sure nothing is amiss, or simply to act as an additional deterrent against mischief or terror.
The COP volunteers don't do it for money, glory or personal recognition. Instead, the approximately 200 volunteers, most senior citizens, are motivated by a genuine, civic-minded desire to work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement to help maintain public safety, stamp out crime and enhance the quality of life in their community. And that’s precisely the civic spirit that President Bush told the volunteers that he’s hoping to tap into all across the country.
"The county and the state have said there are numerous seniors who have got a lot to offer -- people who might be retired, but their brains haven’t retired, and their experience hasn’t been retired," the President said during his remarks in Volusia County. "If people in this part of the world want to help be a part of the first defense on homeland security -- and that is, help patrol neighborhoods, or patrol areas, or industrial complexes, to make sure nothing unusual is happening -- a great program is Citizens On Patrol, right here in Volusia County."
During his trip to Volusia County, President Bush along with Jeb Bush got an up-close view of a fingerprinting demonstration as well as a first-hand overview of the way the COP program works from the Sheriff’s Office’s COP coordinator, Len Jansen. During a private moment with the President, Jansen told him that the COP program can be emulated by any jurisdiction. In fact, Jansen, who helped launch the program, has received inquiries from all over the country seeking information and help in replicating the program.
"I told the President that the COP program can work, and work well, anywhere in the country. We’re proof of that right here in the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office," said Jansen.
With his demonstration over and his remarks just about concluded, President Bush was on to the next leg of his trip — but not before some final words of praise for the assembled volunteers.
"I said in my (State of the Union) speech that one way we’ll overcome evil is through the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and decency and compassion. And I’m proud to be in a room of part of that momentum."
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said he’s extremely proud of the work of his COP volunteers and very gratified that President Bush is using the program as a model for his national initiative in volunteerism.
"Our COP volunteers provide an extremely valuable service to our citizens and the Sheriff’s Office," said Sheriff Johnson. "It was an extraordinary honor to have President Bush recognize our efforts. The strength of our program is in our volunteers, and the President’s praise was a fitting tribute to their hard work and dedication to their community."
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151