In 2018, members of the Shawnee Police Department Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) participated in 47 events totaling 2,064 hours and saving the city of over $50,000.
Comprised of 16 volunteers, VIPS is an organization dedicated to assisting the Shawnee Police Department and community in various ways.
"It's a national organization and it's run by the International Police Chief Association and its volunteers from the community that are trained to assist the Police Department in things like traffic control, crowd control...,” said Dawn Ramsey, volunteer since 2005.
According to Ramsey, while VIPS can patrol, direct traffic and members wear a uniform, the organization does not have the authority of the SPD.
"We are not police officers. We have no power of arrest and our role is to help the city and the police department give the best services to the citizens of the community possible," Ramsey said.
VIPS members don't replace any staff or accept money for what they do. They handle events with large community participation.
"We work things like the 5K runs where we keep (runners) safe and keep traffic moving around them so that they can do their thing" Ramsey said.
On March 31, the VIPS will be conducting traffic and protecting runners at the Rocket Man 5K on Airport Road.
Ramsey has been a dedicated member of VIPS for over 13 years and while the small group has made great accomplishments, they still need more people.
"What my problem is right now since I am the one that's doing all the organizing is I need more volunteers," Ramsey said. "I need volunteers that really want to help their community..."
Currently there are 16 members of VIPS, but Ramsey said a small group of them are actually able to volunteer on a regular basis.
"I have about six to eight that actually work and they have held this unit together for over two years now and I need to find a way to recruit new personnel," Ramsey said.
Ramsey is redoing the training manual which will now include hands on training after each session.
New recruits will learn how to communicate, how to direct traffic, how to park a car to block off an accident and what to do when there is a fire.
"It's helping the fire department, police department and rescue. We can do all of that if we've got the training and the people to do it," Ramsey said.
The volunteer explained the Police Foundation gave VIPS money to purchase a EZ Child ID Finger Print Unit. They've been tabling at the mall several times a month and offering to fingerprint children. So far they've fingerprinted over 50 children.
"That's for the benefit of the community. The mall is not paying us," Ramsey said. "We're doing that on our own."
When people join they must go through a process to determine if they are a right fit for VIPS.
"When they join us they fill out an application. They have to do a background check. They get their fingerprints taken...," Ramsey said. "Once we get through all of that...and once we find people that really want to help...then they're required to work at least six hours a month."
Those hours could be completed by volunteering at a 5K or event that usually lasts about six hours or by participating in the three hours shifts of fingerprinting.
VIPS cover events such as the Shawnee Christmas Parade and other such events.
If VIPS receives more volunteers, then Ramsey said the organization can help reduce crime by giving cops a chance to do more important police work.
"We can do all kinds of things that keep a police officer busy enough that they can't get out there and do their job, which is crime," Ramsey said. "If we're doing the non-crime portion of it and reporting what we see and get them there to stop it then we're making it safer for our kids safer to live in this community."
According to Shawnee Police Sgt. Dan Shumaker, VIPS is a valuable tool for the police department to utilize.
"They're definitely an asset for the police department and the city of Shawnee...They're always available for community events. It's definitely just an asset for the city," Shumaker said.
Ramsey explained VIPS really needs new faces and volunteers who want to keep the community safe.
"It's the same group over and over...You can get burned out on this...after a while it becomes hum drum and that's why we need to get new blood in even if they don't stay for years and years...," Ramsey said.
Shumaker said VIPS would be a great organization to join for those who want to serve and protect the community.
"The people that are retired and professional we'd love to have them come at least check out the program. It's fun and it's going to keep you busy. There's no dull moments," Shumaker said.
Both Shumaker and Ramsey are hopeful VIPS will receive new recruits and the thanks they deserve.
"I would like for it to grow and I'd like for the members to be recognized as well," he said. "I know our police department does a good job of that...."
If you're interested in VIPS, call Ramsey at 405-788-1045.