Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Moorhead men and women from college age through their 80s have donated nearly 60,000 hours of time to helping the police department stretch its officers’ effectiveness and its budget.
That’s what community policing coordinator Leann Wallin told the MPD’s current troupe of 20 volunteers learned Monday night as the auxiliary officers saluted 20 years of the city’s program. Launched in 1999 by then-Police Chief Grant Weyland, the support group’s contributions have reached impressive levels over two decades, including writing almost $2.2 million in parking tickets for handicap, fire lane and on-street parking violations.
In addition to generating revenue and freeing sworn officers from pursuing these minor violations, the volunteers have stepped forward to help officers with many different tasks. Some of the tasks are mundane: typing information on foot-high stacks of fingerprint cards, for example, in the days before digitized data. Others represent tedious kinds of detective work, like viewing hundreds of hours of surveillance tape to determine whether a suspect really had been where he swore he wasn’t. On another occasion, a dozen volunteers put in 108 hours auditing phone calls and reading correspondence of a jailed suspect awaiting trial who was ultimately convicted of murder.
And then there are the one-of-a-kind events where Police Volunteers have stepped in. When the TV show “Extreme Makeover” gave a complete facelift to a home on Eighth Street, 19 volunteers worked a total of 260 hours providing traffic control ad security – the equivalent of $10,000 in police overtime. Last year’s Mission of Mercy, sponsored by the Minnesota Dental Association, drew 1,400 patients in two days; 12 volunteers logged 103 hours, working around the clock to provide security and ensure the public’s safety.
At Monday’s meeting, Leann recruited helpers to fill gaps in another project, monitoring the homes of snowbirds who spend extended time away from the city. In past months two have divided up an average of 30 home checks every week. Others signed up for traffic control at Saturday’s Celtic Festival at the Hjemkomst Center and the St. Patrick’s Day parade a week later.
According to the coordinator, most volunteers are drawn from among alumni of Moorhead’s Citizens Police Academy. The popular program introduces civilians to the nuts and bolts of police work, taking them behind the scenes and offering a glimpse of what life is like for officers. That interest in law enforcement drew five-year volunteer Tammy Ehresman into the field; today she is an officer with the Fargo Police, but continues to contribute her free time to the volunteer corps in her home town.
Several of the volunteers have children or grandchildren who are active in law enforcement in other communities, among them Bev Olson and Doug and Arlene Morey. Others have other kinds of experience. One-year volunteer Collin Dvorak calls himself a “serial volunteer” who has worked as a volunteer firefighter, in search-and-rescue or in other roles wherever he has lived. “When I moved to Moorhead, I searched this out,” he said.
However they find their way in, the Police Volunteers have demonstrated remarkable staying power. Despite long records of unpaid hours – several have reached the 5,000 mark – a majority of the group have been on board for from five to all 20 years. Two, Ruthie Johnson and Eileen Hastad, signed up when the auxiliary police group was formed back in 1999. Five more have more than 10 years of service each, including Nancy Lund, Dale Mitchell, Linda Laske, Bev Olson and Doug Morey. Five more have more than five years each – Arlene Morey, Annette and John Graves, Russ Hanson and Trisha Friedt. Newer members since 2014 include Ehresman, Tiffany Footitt, Jennifer Johnson, Amber Nelson, Bob Footitt, Collin Dvorak, Calvin Anderson and Myron Bowar.
Leann says that the department is always looking for volunteers. “We really need parking enforcement volunteers right now in particular,” she notes. More information on Moorhead’s Police Volunteers is available at cityofmoorhead.com/departments/police/support/police-volunteers.
Police Volunteers celebrate 20 years of service
Nancy Edmonds Hanson