Police find free-wheeling helper

Volunteer: Aiding Westminster's officers -- and many others -- is all in a day's work for one young man.

June 13, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A burglar alarm sounds in Westminster and patrol officers converge on the scene, hoping to nab a thief.

No such luck. A broken window is discovered, but no one has seen a fleeing suspect.

Kenneth Carlisle pedals up on his Diamondback police mountain bike, hears what has happened and quickly offers that, while on patrol in an alley minutes before, he saw a man acting suspiciously.

With Carlisle's detailed description of the man, officers locate a suspect nearby minutes later. He is arrested and charged with the break-in.

Carlisle, 22, is one of nine active volunteers with the Westminster Police Department. He and his colleagues are the "eyes and ears for our department," says Cpl. Michael Bible, the agency's community policing officer who supervises a grant-funded program called SCORE -- Stop Crime On Residential Environment.

The state grant pays for uniforms, badges and other equipment such as orange safety vests for traffic control and cyclist helmets for volunteers who have passed bike patrol training.

Carlisle got interested in police work as a teen-ager when enrolled in Westminster High School's Job Readiness Program. He interned with the Police Department and was actively involved with Explorer Post 56 at the state police barracks in Westminster.

As a senior, he was one of 10 special education students in a program to help with students' transition to a working environment. After graduating and working for about a year packing books at Random House, Carlisle quit and became a SCORE volunteer.

He already was busy as a social member of Westminster Fire Engine & Hose Co. No. 1, assisting with fund-raising events such as bingo and dances.

He took a seasonal full-time position with the Westminster Department of Recreation, where he puts in 35 hours a week supervising the Skateboard Park. He will soon begin similar duties at the city playground, said Ronald J. Schroers, recreation chief.

"He has a heart of gold and will do anything to help out," Schroers said. "I could give him more hours, but he's so busy with his volunteer police work I hate to ask him to do more and burn out."

Ask Bible about his busiest volunteer and he says, "Kenny lives here. Since Jan. 1 through May 31, he has logged 842 volunteer hours," the equivalent of more than 21 full-time 40-hour weeks.

Ask Carlisle, and he refers to his volunteer work as "my job."

"I'll do anything they ask me to do," he said.

Besides monitoring Westminster's streets on two wheels or two feet, he responds to accidents and directs traffic, keeping cars moving so emergency vehicles can arrive more quickly. He also checks on businesses, carries papers to and from the courthouse, responds to incidents such as motorists locking keys in vehicles, and provides directions and information to anyone in need.

At times, when someone tries to engage him in casual conversation, he politely excuses himself, saying, "I've got a detail to get to."

Carlisle clearly understands that he is not to get involved in criminal events. If he finds an abandoned bicycle on a sidewalk, he can check to see if it is reported stolen. If so, he radios for an officer to write an incident report.

If the bicycle has not been stolen, he writes a report and carries the property to headquarters to be held until someone calls police about it.

He also enjoys riding with officers on duty, and knows his importance in providing backup.

"I may have to call for assistance if an officer goes down, or is about to get beat up," he said.

Carlisle is less active with the state police, but Sgt. J.W. Long at the Westminster barracks said last week, "I know I can still call on Kenny any time I need help and he would be here in a minute."

On Christmas Eve 1996, Kenny dressed as McGruff, the Crime Dog, stood next to a wrecked car in front of the barracks and waved to cars during a "Don't Drink and Drive" holiday campaign.

"How many guys would do that for you on Christmas Eve?" asked Long.

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