When Joan Wheeler Ash became a charter member of the Colusa County Sheriff’s Volunteer Citizen Service Unit in 1996, she was one of a small group of people who found a new purpose in life after retirement.
“There were things I felt were worthwhile and things that needed to be done, and I felt I was able to do them,” said Ash, who has logged more than 7,000 volunteer hours in the organization.
The Citizen Service Unit is a volunteer group that brings people into law enforcement from all walks of life, and uses their experience in service to the community.
“It’s good community service,” said Unit Commander Ron Hamilton. “There is a lot we can do, and there is a lot that they won’t let us do. They won’t put us in harms way.”
Their help, however, is valuable to the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Williams and Colusa police departments.
“Our citizen volunteers play a vital role in providing quality public service,” said Sheriff Joe Garofalo. “Without them our jobs would be much more difficult. We greatly appreciate the time and effort they contribute to volunteerism. I just wish we had more of them.”
“It’s an amazing service they provide,” agreed Williams Police Chief Ed Anderson. “We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
While the duties of the volunteers are not specifically defined as law enforcement activities, they perform services that would fall to sworn officers if not for their help. They are present at parades, rodeos, community events, and meetings. They assist with traffic control, crime prevention, the DARE program, patrol, vacation checks, and help during disasters. They are not peace officers; they do not make arrests and do not carry weapons, but they can often be found working beside sworn officers in the Sheriff’s Office and in the courts.
“I haven’t been really active the last four years, but before that I did a lot of work at the Sheriff’s Office and quite a bit in court,” Ash said. “I’ve always enjoyed it.”
Last week, the citizen volunteers were recognized for their hours of service.
Although Ash is the longest-serving member, the unit has a mix of longtime and new members.
Jean Bailey of Stonyford has logged 5,374 hours; Ron Hamilton, 4,525; Joe Busath, 4,738; Judy Busath, 3,685; Dorothy Murphy, 5090; Ron Reed, 2,295; Fay Turner, 1,616; Floyd Stevens, 1,787; Cathy Garcia, 1,904; Richard Airozo, 101; Gary Coan, 51; and Victor Vargas, 125.
“We have a good group of people, but we can use more volunteers,” Hamilton said.
To be a volunteer, you must be able to work 16 hours a month, be a citizen of the United States, possess a California ID card, and have good moral character, a clean police record, and good credit standing.
For more information, contact the Colusa County Sheriff’s Department at 458-0200 or visit www.countyofcolusa.org. ■