Civilians lend hand to state police Volunteers charged with completing tasks

July 12, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A small but growing group of civilian volunteers across the state is helping state troopers spend more time on public safety and less time doing tedious and sometimes menial chores. In the process, they're saving thousands of dollars for taxpayers, state police say.

They are Volunteers in Police Support -- 121 civilians from 18 to 88 years old who provide clerical help, input computer data, do filing, deliver mail, process citations -- and, in some instances, do fingerprinting and photography.

"They greatly contribute to the efficient operations of the department and provide unspoken, genuine dedication to the men and women of the Maryland State Police," Col. David B. Mitchell, state police superintendent, said in a statement. "The Maryland State Police is forever indebted to each and every one of them."

The volunteers have saved the state more than $700,000 in the past two years, providing free services that the state would have to pay for otherwise, according to state police officials.

Begun in 1985 with three volunteers, the group was recognized by the governor's office two years later as a state volunteer organization. It has been growing since. Volunteers are now in every barracks except the JFK facility in North East, Cecil County.

Volunteers free troopers to remain on patrol, Mitchell said.

The number of volunteer hours can be staggering. A stalwart like 69-year-old Wilbur "Pete" Lanier of Linthicum logged 3,614 volunteer hours in the past two years. That equals about 226 workdays each year -- nearly the equivalent of a full-time job.

Yet Lanier said he wishes he could help more. "It's a way to serve the community," he said. "I'll do anything to keep a trooper on the road."

For Lanier, who worked 40 years as an account manager for the Western Maryland, Baltimore & Ohio and CSX railroads after serving in the Navy, his volunteerism is about as close as he can get to a lifelong goal.

"I always wanted to be a state policeman," he said.

Oldest volunteer is 88

The oldest volunteer, 88-year-old Vivian George of Salisbury, is "too busy" with church and senior citizens activities to come in more than one day a week, Karen Timmons, barracks secretary in Salisbury, said with a chuckle.

"She always has a joke to tell and brings in breakfast buns, cookies or something sweet for us," Timmons said. "I hope I get around as well when I am her age."

Monroe "Buster" Dixon, 78, of Frederick is also active. He drives about 125 miles three times a week, carrying mail and supplies to and from Pikesville or to quartermaster headquarters in Waterloo.

"Buster's as famous as Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali," said Lt. Kenneth L. Tregoning, barracks commander in Frederick. "It would take at least three full-time employees to do what he does for us every week."

Dixon has logged 2,135 volunteer hours in the past two years, only about 60 less than Gerald Iman, 81, of McHenry.

Iman often drives more than 300 miles a week, traveling to Hagerstown or Pikesville or Waterloo two or three times a week, ferrying mail and supplies to and from the western region.

Husband and wife team Betty and Bill Dauer of Eldersburg volunteer three days a week in Westminster at the state's busiest barracks and one day a week at state police headquarters in Pikesville, helping coordinate the police support program.

Betty, 54, makes sure speeding tickets issued in Carroll County are properly forwarded to court and Motor Vehicle Administration officials. She handled more than 20,000 tickets last year "and didn't lose a single one," she said.

Her husband, Bill, 57, tracks the hours each volunteer works and maintains records for the program. Seventy percent of the volunteers have completed high school and at least some have college or specialized training, he said.

A few volunteers, like Jim Emerick of Westminster, are former state troopers who understand state police needs and are prepared to handle any task. Others, like Helen Heurich, who logged 2,188 hours at the Cumberland barracks in the past two years, get involved because a relative works for the state police. Heurich's daughter, Lt. Col. Cindy Smith, is chief of the state police Bureau of Drug and Criminal Enforcement.

Some volunteers, like Dixon and the Dauers, happened along almost by accident. Dixon, who retired as a distributor for the defunct Washington Star, moved to Florida and worked nine years for a water company there before returning to Frederick seven years ago.

'A civic duty'

"A friend mentioned joining and I just went along," Dixon said. "I see it as a civic duty to help these guys out, as hard as they work. I'd be in here two more days a week if I didn't have to baby-sit my grandson."

The Dauers came to Maryland from West Jefferson, a small Ohio town near Columbus, where Bill was elected to the town council and appointed police liaison. Betty was involved in police dispatch and Bill worked for a pharmaceutical company. They were transferred to Maryland in 1976 and Bill retired in 1993.

In April 1994, Betty saw an advertisement for volunteers in the newspaper, and Bill signed up; she followed seven months later.

"It only took a short while to finish all the projects I had set aside to accomplish during retirement," he said, "and I was bored stiff."

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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