PLANO, TEXAS - This month, the Plano Police department volunteer program was ranked number one in the state by The Texas Citizens Police Alumni Association.
Plano has more than 200 men and women who volunteer with the department, often doing real police work to assist the officers.
Volunteers have to go through an 11-week course and pass background checks. They're then able to patrol the streets looking for handicap parking violations and scan license plates, looking for stolen cars and warrants.
David Snellings is one of top volunteers with Citizens Assisting Plano Police. So far in 2017, he's logged 1500 hours, often coming in well before dawn to start his patrols.
"If you don't love what you do, do something else," Snellings said.
The retired physicians assistant says volunteers are meant to pick up smaller tasks, so officers can focus on bigger crimes. Snellings often logs more than 50 hours of volunteering a week.
"I just love it," Snellings said.
Police Chief Gregory Rushin says the volunteers do far more than clerical work, and he started shifting the way the department worked with them about 10 years ago.
"I looked at what they were doing, and I said this is a real service," Rushin said.
Plano has been proactive in courting citizens to interact with the department. Officers look for ways to utilize the skills volunteers like John Carslon bring in. Carlson spent decades working at banks and now helps detectives scan through surveillance video at crimes at banks and other financial institutions.
"It's neat to bring that knowledge here," Carlson said.
Plano police say in 2017 volunteers logged $361,000 worth of hours. Some volunteers have been credited with lifesaving awards, and many have helped identify stolen cars, which are then brought in by officers.
As police departments across the country focus on "community policing" styles, Plano says having citizens be a part of their work is the ultimate success. It's work both the department and the volunteers say they will continue to do.
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