Policy Study

Community Law Enforcement

The Success of San Diego's Volunteer Policing Program

Executive Summary

No police department is large enough-nor should it be in a democracy-to keep a community safe on its own. Effective crime prevention requires the active support of citizens-a partnership of the police department and the community. The growing recognition of this truism has resulted in a burgeoning interest in, and implementation of, community policy methods and philosophies in police departments across the country.

The city of San Diego, like many cities, has introduced community policing into its police department. But what makes San Diego’s approach to neighborhood policing truly unique is the unparalled extent to which the police department has made volunteers an integral component of its community policing program.

The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) possesses a volunteer workforce of approximately 800 citizens. These volunteers play a vital role in the department’s vision to engage the community in a problem-solving partnership to reduce crime and positively effect the quality of life in each community. The San Diego experience has demonstrated convincingly the benefits of involving the community in the business of law enforcement. These benefits include:

  • Over $1.5 million worth of policing man hours from volunteers;
  • The addition of several new policing services;
  • Better police/community relations; and
  • Allowing police officers to focus more time on serious crimes.

In addition to providing a case study of San Diego’s extensive use of volunteers in crime prevention, this study offers step-by-step guidelines on issues that should be addressed when developing a volunteer program in any law enforcement agency, such as executive commitment, needs assessments, the development of volunteer roles, liability and confidentiality.

Private and public agencies have realized for decades the value of volunteers in enhancing their workforce. With the advent of community policing in the law enforcement profession, we can begin to tap this potentially unlimited resource with an understanding that volunteers will help promote a closer relationship with the community.

Attachments

Kathy Kessler is a sergeant with the San Diego Police Department. She is currently responsible for coordinating the Neighborhood Policing Restructuring Project and supervises the Community Crime Prevention Unit in the Neighborhood Policing Division. Ms. Kessler supervises the Gang Initiative Grant, Neighborhood Watch and is the Training Coordinator for Neighborhood Policing Division.

Ms. Kessler has been a member of the police department for over I I years. Her past assignments included Patrol, Field Training Officer, Field Operations Management and Patrol Sergeant. She has written numerous grant proposals and various articles related to Neighborhood Policing. Ms. Kessler has been a presenter at the International Problem Oriented Policing Conference and is a training consultant for police departments around the country on the subject of Problem Oriented Policing. Ms. Kessler holds a B.A. from San Diego State University in Criminal Justice Administration.

Julie Wartell has worked for over four years in Crime Analysis at the San Diego Police Department. She has worked on several large scale problem-solving efforts including the Drug Market Analysis Project, with the Police Executive Research Forum, and the Comprehensive Gang Initiative. Ms. Wartell is currently working on a grant to evaluate the implementation of community policing.

Ms. Wartell has served as the analyst liaison with two area commands, the Narcotics, Gang, and Homicide Units, and the Neighborhood Policing Division. She has done problem-solving and crime analysis training for officers and civilians from across the country. Ms. Wartell has an M.P.A. with an emphasis in Criminal Justice Administration.