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PROVO — Justin Barrett loves police work.
He was a full time officer for several years before taking a job in the private sector. But now, he is back on the streets as a volunteer for the Provo Police Department.
“It’s not your typical volunteer opportunity,” Barrett said. “I would say it’s fun to help out in this capacity.”
On Tuesday, city leaders officially opened the VIPS or Volunteers in Police Service program.
You won’t find the volunteers arresting people, writing tickets or responding to emergencies. But they will be extra eyes in the city, looking for anything suspicious that police need to check out — all as a service to the community.
(Volunteers) will be extra eyes in the city, looking for anything suspicious that police need to check out — all as a service to the community.
“Parts of the city where we may be helping out, the particular communities and neighborhoods, we can go be an extra presence in those neighborhoods and have some visibility in a Provo police car,” Barrett said.
The volunteers are armed with nothing more than a police radio, which connects them to dispatchers. And they have no actual police authority, Barrett adds.
“Literally as a regular citizen in the community, that’s what we can do as volunteers and we are going to be more careful than that, since we have full-time officers who are a radio away,” he said.
The volunteers routinely direct traffic at accidents, look into calls of missing pets or help out in other emergency situations.
The volunteers are asked to fill a shift once a week, usually for about four hours. But if things get busy, they often stay until the job is done.
The volunteer program allows sworn officers more time to focus on more serious matters, according to Rick Gregory, Provo’s new police chief.
“We believe in partnerships. We believe in problem solving. We believe in prevention and all three of those are covered when you have volunteers who come from your community, who are supporting your mission," Gregory said.
"Our mission is to reduce crime and reduce the fear of crime.”
Volunteers believe the program gives them an opportunity to help out in their community and make it safer.
“It’s a great way to help out, I really love police work,” said Barrett, “and I also love the police department in Provo and I love the community in Provo.”