The most cost effective program ever to roll out of the Manteca Civic Center?
Try Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police.
It is an observation made from afar by former City Manager Steve Pinkerton who is now serving in a similar capacity in the City of Davis.
The volunteer unit created in August 1991 by then Police Chief Willie Weatherford is currently 65 members strong and donates an average of 21,000 hours each year to the community.
Big deal, you might say. They’re not police officers.
But that is precisely why they are effective. They aren’t police officers.
The SHARP volunteers essentially do four key functions:
• They take over duties that must be performed such a traffic control at accidents and major events which in turn frees up police officers.
• They handle essential duties that free up non-sworn police personnel for other pressing needs. Those duties include delivering court papers, filing, graffiti abatement, illegal sign removal from telephone poles, and other such tasks.
• They enhance crime prevention and safety by patrolling neighborhoods, shopping centers, and doing vacation checks to serve as extra eyes for the department. They also help keep school zones safe.
• They also will take on non-police tasks when asked that essentially improve the quality of life in Manteca.
The work they perform means that highly trained peace officers are freed up to fight crime. Their efforts also mean that the overall police department service level to the community - whether it is an emergency or non-emergency situation - is kept up as high as possible.
Pinkerton is convinced that the SHARP unit along with others who bring the police department’s volunteer ranks up close to the 200 mark is part of the reason why Manteca Police have been as effective as they have been. SHARP volunteers are on call for a wide variety of tasks that free up limited sworn police personnel including at 3 o’clock in the morning for traffic control at major accidents or around downed power lines.
Up until a year ago the SHARP unit was even more effective. That is until the California Legislature in its infinite wisdom decided that all traffic tickets - including non-moving violations - had to be issued by an officer who has Police Officers Standard Training.
Never mind that the SHARP volunteers had been trained thoroughly and supervised when they were used to write non-moving vehicle violation tickets running the gamut from expired tags to illegal parking in handicapped zones.
There is little doubt that Manteca is blessed with a municipal workforce of firefighters, police officers and rank-and-file workers that is dedicated and efficient.
But without the help of volunteers, the city would not have been able to maintain the level of services as they have.
Not only that, but Manteca’s level of volunteers - whether it is with the fire, police or parks and recreation departments - is almost unheard of for California especially given the size of the volunteer corps in comparison to the city’s pollution.
The power of volunteerism can’t be overestimated when it comes to helping to address collective community problems.
And when it comes to volunteers in terms of effectiveness, dedication, and sheer numbers the gold standard in Manteca - and indeed the Northern San Joaquin Valley - is the Manteca Police Department SHARP unit.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.