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Duties expand for auxiliary officers
Duties expand for auxiliary officers
By SUE REID
Solon's auxiliary officers not only expand the communication between the police force and the community, but they are considered the eyes and ears of the department, Solon police Lt. Bruce Felton said.
Comprised of 18 members, the auxiliary force has seen expanded duties this year. Members have broadened their service to the department and the community with different roles.
"We wanted to be proactive with the auxiliary force," Police Chief Wayne E. Godzich said. "In the past, they had just been used for traffic control and events in the city, such as Home Days or for minor jobs at area churches.
"They never really played a more specific role in the police department, and they are starting to do that."
Mr. Godzich said the reason for expanding those roles had to do with the uncertainty of the economy and the fact that the police department wanted to do more in the area of crime prevention, especially at the city's shopping centers.
With the expanded roles comes additional training, with auxiliary officers meeting once a month to cover a variety of topics.
"There's a whole list of other things we want them to start doing," Mr. Godzich said of the officers, "but they need to be trained in those areas. It just doesn't happen overnight."
The monthly meetings consist of three hours of training, covering such areas as ethics training, radio and general patrol procedures, self-defense and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to name a few, Mr. Felton said.
The force also has its own police vehicles, he said. "We're taking small steps this year," he said, including taking the vehicle to and from areas of the city where they do foot patrol.
"We want them to do driving patrol more and more," Mr. Felton said.
He said, however, that it is critical to know that the auxiliary officers are not commissioned officers by the state.
"They don't have enforcement abilities any more than a private citizen would have," Mr. Felton said. They are also unarmed, Mr. Godzich said, and have no police powers.
Some of the areas where auxiliary officers work on crime prevention include being assigned to the shopping centers each weekend. Officers park their vehicle and walk from store to store, speaking to the management to identify any problems.
"It frees up our other officers," Mr. Godzich said. "Shopping-center owners are very appreciative of their presence."
Auxiliary officers also deliver City Council mail each Friday, and have assisted with other events in the city, such as the annual 5-kilometer run, the July 4 fireworks display and Halloween.
"Meeting once a month has helped tremendously," Mr. Felton said of their involvement in the community. "They feel more a part of the community and the department." Officers want to be part of that public-service factor, Mr. Felton said.
"Hopefully, in the years to come, we will expand their ability for driving patrols in peak hours to be our eyes and ears," Mr. Felton said, "and to be out there more and more in a volunteer status."
Auxiliary officers come from all walks of life, Mr. Felton said, with the only requirement that they be of good moral background, have good decision-making skills and possess a sense of commitment to both the department and the people in the community.
Michael Freiberg, of Solon, who will be on the auxiliary force 20 years next month, said he enjoys the different things the officers do. Mr. Freiberg, along with other officers, works as security at City Hall during government meetings. He said he enjoys dealing with the public in that way.
"We patrol the city and help out the regular officers if they need us anywhere," Mr. Freiberg said. "We keep an eye on the stores in the shopping center and make sure no one is stealing. Basically, it's crime prevention, being out there and being noticed."
Mr. Freiberg, who has a background in construction and worked as a construction manager building homes, said he answered an advertisement in a newspaper for the auxiliary department as a way to get involved in the city.
Solon resident Barry Heffern, a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service, said he became involved as an auxiliary officer in 2000 after responding to a newspaper advertisement. He knew of a fellow member at the time, he said, and thought, "If he could do it, so could I."
Mr. Heffern, along with other officers, do such tasks as walk Solon Community Park on SOM Center Road (Route 91) to make sure it is safe. He said he is very impressed with the respect he gets as an auxiliary officer. In his work as a letter carrier, he often does not get that same respect, he said.
"When you're out there directing traffic as an auxiliary officer, there is a respect there," Mr. Heffern said. "They appreciate the work we are doing, and I appreciate them."
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