The Mount Vernon Police Department understands that in order to effectively police a community, the citizens must be empowered to take ownership of their community. Citizens on Proactive Patrol (COPP) is a group of volunteers who work with the Police Department to make the city a better place. They are an extension of the Department’s community policing efforts, and act as additional eyes, ears, and problem solvers, with their main focus on quality of life issues.
To become a member of COPP, individuals must attend a 12-week Citizen’s Academy sponsored by the Mount Vernon Police Department. Upon completion, they continue on with another five-week advanced training course, as well as a field-training period with selected, specially trained, veteran members of COPP.
Patrolling the city is one of the various duties of COPP. Members commit to two four-hour patrol shifts per month, and work on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon and evenings. They patrol in pairs in one of the two former police cars that have had the light bar and siren removed. The cars are equipped with police radios, bicycle racks, and a directional light bar in the back window, and are marked “Citizen’s Patrol.” Members carry portable police radios and cellular telephones while patrolling neighborhoods, parks, schools, and business areas. When they notice anything out of the ordinary, they radio a police officer to respond and check out the situation.
COPP has many duties beyond patrolling the city. They post abandoned vehicles to be towed; pick up found bicycles; assist officers with traffic control; enforce handicapped parking and graffiti abatement. COPP volunteers also work selected special events throughout the year. They help with traffic control for Halloween Downtown, the Mount Vernon High School Homecoming Parade, and the Christmas Parade. They have also assisted with Youth Appreciation Day and several Child Safety Seat Clinics.
COPP recently expanded their services and added an emergency team that could respond to incidents before or after their normal patrol hours. Eight members volunteered to be on a list to be called out any time a need arose. An initial meeting was held and the group decided that when called, in order to be effective they would need to be able to respond to the Mount Vernon Police Department within 30 minutes. At that point, they dubbed themselves the “No-Wait 8.” Members of this group have been called into service for fires, power lines down, and fatality traffic accidents. Members were even called out to search for evidence from a homicide scene, which they found.
The Police Department credits two of their COPP volunteers with helping to send a burglar to prison. They were on patrol when they spotted the front glass doorframe forced off. They called the 911 Center, which dispatched police officers. When officers arrived, they found the burglar inside the building with $3,500 worth of merchandise. The Mount Vernon community has truly benefited from COPP’s activities. During the 2001-2003 calendar years, members provided nearly 7,000 hours of volunteered service.