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Cape Coral Police Department honors volunteers

By Staff | Feb 22, 2018

Do you ever wonder how the police get so much done? With a large team of volunteers backing up its world-class local law enforcement agency, it’s no wonder Cape Coral is the second safest city in Florida. That’s why Cape Coral police celebrate their appreciation for all their volunteers’ hard work.

On Wednesday, the Cape Coral Police Department honored its Police Volunteer Unit with its annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. The award ceremony took place at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, where the venue was packed with local law enforcement, volunteers, and public officials, who enjoyed catering provided by Mission Barbecue.

Cape Coral Police Chief David Newlan expressed gratitude for the volunteers during the event.

“I want all volunteers to know how much they are appreciated. There are so many things they do for us on a daily basis; parking enforcement, fingerprints. I think it goes without saying how very much they are appreciated. This is just a small gesture of our gratefulness.”

The PVU makes up part of the CCPD’s special operations bureau, which is comprised of teams of diverse units carrying out unique roles in law enforcement.

“We love to have the volunteer program. They are an integral part of our agency. They pick up a lot of the work load, directing traffic, doing house checks, distributing DNA kits, and so much more. We wouldn’t do as well as we do without them,” said CCPD Deputy Police Chief Lisa Barnes on the PVU.

“The PVU makes up 2 percent of our total operation budget,” said Lt. Dana Coston with Public Affairs. “The program donates an excess of $1 million per year in in-kind services.”

he PVU completed 52,992 volunteer last year, saving an estimated $1,279,266.88 in payroll, according to a report by CCPD.

“We are saving the taxpayers money,” said Jerry Monroe, the PVU’s volunteer coordinator who has served on the unit for nine years.

Captain Mike Torregrossa of the CCPD addressed the crowd during a speech on the work ethic at the department.

“I have to remind myself constantly, that these guys aren’t getting paid. The amount of effort, not just the workload, but the effort and conscientiousness they bring forth. If I could, they would be officer of the year every year.”

“I can’t think of anything difficult about my job,” Monroe said. Another volunteer chimed in, “Dealing with us, obviously.” The table of volunteers all broke out laughing. The PVU is like a family of public servants, who have their own inside jokes, and make the most out of volunteering.

“The work is very rewarding. There’s no two ways about it. We give back to the community to fulfill a need, to relieve the officers so they can chase the bad guys,” said Monroe.

Anyone can apply to become a police officer volunteer, as long as they’re a legal adult and can pass an extensive background test. In order to volunteer, you must go through a free 40-hour training program.

But is volunteering for the PVU for anyone?

“You have to understand and know how to deal with the public,” Monroe explained. “You have to be willing to deal with different kinds of people, because you get your fair share of those who push back against authority. You need to take it with a grain of salt, and you can’t have a hot temper.”

The PVU doesn’t arrest people, make traffic stops, nor do they issue traffic tickets. They do, however, issue ordinance violations, handicap parking violations, assisting police on crash scenes, and conducting road and marine patrol.

Rich Servello, the manager of PVU’s Marine Patrol, has volunteered for the PVU for 12 years, and coordinates volunteers who work out on the water. The Marine Patrol not only help in keeping our waters safe, but they assist in keeping it clean as well.

“We don’t stop boats, and we don’t have sirens. But we do try to slow down speeders. And if we find debris out in the water, we’ll clean it up. If it’s too big, we’ll throw it in the boat ramp and call Citizen’s Action to pick it up,” said Servello.

Citizen’s Action is an organized group of concerned citizens that works with the city in addressing community issues, and can be contacted by dialing 311 in Cape Coral.

Steve Pasquale is a retired officer with New York State, and has volunteered for the PVU for three years.

“The most memorable experience volunteering was Hurricane Irma. So many people were frustrated, and all they wanted was information. We would direct them wherever they needed to get it.”

Hurricane Irma is remembered as a pivotal moment in Southwest Florida, as the community came together, depending highly on volunteers and public service.

“This is a fantastic program; I wish we could do more for these people than this. I run into these people all the time, and they do a great job,” said Cape Coral City Councilmember Rick Williams who attended the luncheon.

The award recipients were presented awards by Corporal Phil Mullen, Deputy Chief Barnes, and Police Chief Newlan, who honored volunteers having served from five to 20 years, service recognition awards, and the volunteer of the year. Salvatore Recca, who was awarded for 20 years’ service recognition with the PVU, also said his goodbyes to the department, as he announced his retirement at the ceremony.

Jeffrey Owens was chosen as the PVU volunteer of the year. Owens joined the volunteer unit in 2016, and since then, he’s volunteered almost every detail including road patrol, the city hall lobby, kiddie prints, and traffic watch detail. Owens volunteered during Hurricane Irma, working as a police volunteer and was in charge of the shelter at Island High School.

The program is ideal for all ages, and those that have free time and want to give back to the community. There is a current need for volunteers during weekends and evenings, and you can choose your own hours. If you have some time, and an interest in both giving back to your community and becoming part of Cape Coral’s enforcement agency, contact the PVU at (239) 242-3346.