Chief: Initiative will help officers be more proactive
by Kara Lopp
Al Shuford is ready to make a difference.
And he’ll get that chance next month when the Mint Hill Police Department is expected to start accepting applications for its new volunteer program.
Shuford, a 15-year Mint Hill resident, has been tasked to lead the department’s Volunteers in Police Service, an initiative sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. An athletic trainer for 34 years, Shuford has never worked in law enforcement, but he’s had plenty of training.
In 2005 he began volunteering with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department where he learned to direct traffic, patrol neighborhoods, process the inventory of stolen cars and even work with detectives at crime scenes, often being tasked to take photographs. Most of his volunteer time was spent in the University City area.
But recently he began to think: “Why do I have to drive there when I could help in my own community? I need to do this in my own community,” he said.
Police Chief Tim Ledford said Shuford is one of several Mint Hill residents who have asked how they can get involved. Some of those willing volunteers are retired police officers who “want to get their foot back in the door,” Ledford said.
With a trained, dedicated volunteer contingent, the police department can go from being mainly reactive to proactive to prevent crime, Ledford said.
Volunteers will receive classroom and hands-on instruction from officers before beginning their volunteer duties. Among those tasks could be: directing traffic; patrolling neighborhoods; answering phones; filing; data entry; working security at festivals and helping school resource officers. The department has installed yellow, “civilian,” lights into two vehicles that the volunteers will drive in town, Ledford said. All volunteers must submit to a background check.
“It’s just volunteers filling in the gap,” Shuford said. “Everybody can use help. There’s never enough people and hands to keep operations going. If you had 1,000 hands you’d need 1,001. Whatever it is that’s gotta be done, it’s gotta be done.”
Want to volunteer?
For more information about the Mint Hill Police Volunteers in Police Service program or to apply, e-mail email@example.com. Law enforcement experience isn’t required.
Mint Hill launching Police Explorers program, too
Hey teens, you can make a difference too!
Once the adult volunteer program is underway this fall, the Mint Hill Police Department expects to launch its own Police Explorers program. The initiative, sponsored by the national Boy Scouts of America, will teach residents ages 14 to 20 the basics of law enforcement including directing traffic, taking crime scene photos and more. Mint Hill’s Boy Scout Troop 144, which meets at Blair Road United Methodist Church, has already agreed to sponsor the program, Police Chief Tim Ledford said.
“You never know who you might spark to be our next Chief of Police,” police volunteer Al Shuford said.
Applications aren’t ready yet, but watch Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly for more details on how you can become a Police Explorer.