- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday kicked off the Citizen Corps' Volunteers in Police Service program, an initiative aimed at challenging all Americans to dedicate time to serving the nation and its communities.

Mr. Ashcroft called the program one of "several opportunities emerging through the new Citizen Corps initiative" to enhance local homeland-security efforts and make emergency preparedness "a part of our daily lives."

"The efforts of these volunteers enable officers to stay on the front lines, where they are needed most," he said in a speech at the Nannie J. Lee Community Center in Alexandria.

"Through programs such as Volunteers in Police Service, volunteers can assist police in performing routine duties, which are necessary to the efficient operation of their departments," he said. "Though the work may not be glamorous, it is essential."

Mr. Ashcroft said volunteers who participate in the program will assist departments by performing non-sworn duties, such as answering phones, compiling crime data, preparing incident reports and facilitating crime-prevention programs.

He said Volunteers In Police Service (VIPS) is the first program to bring together law-enforcement volunteer programs nationwide to share resources and support each other's efforts.

This national initiative, he said, will assist state and local law-enforcement agencies by increasing the number of law-enforcement volunteers, expanding or improving various components of existing programs, and helping agencies without volunteer programs to establish them.

"President Bush created his USA Freedom Corps initiative to help Americans respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11 with acts of kindness and compassion," said John Bridgeland, director of the USA Freedom Corps, the White House coordinating council that oversees the Citizen Corps and its programs.

"Programs like VIPS create new opportunities for citizens to get involved," Mr. Bridgeland said.

Mr. Ashcroft also promoted a Web site (www.policevolunteers.org) developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to support the VIPS program.

"The Web site coordinates information from VIPS programs in our local communities to create a nationwide resource," said William Berger, the association's president.

"It provides information about all VIPS programs, and allows law-enforcement agencies and volunteers alike to communicate in order to improve their programs and create more opportunities for volunteer services."

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