By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–Dawn Barnes is a volunteer with a large, extended family. Not only has she raised a handful of kids who became peace officers, but Barnes also serves as a community-volunteer with the Cedar City Police Department (CCPD) – part of what she describes as a “family of law enforcement.”
Barnes is one of a handful of volunteers who partner with police officers and staff to carry out the routine but practical duties necessary in public safety operations.
“Having spent a career in Corrections and 30 years as a volunteer with Search and Rescue, I have to say that law enforcement is a place that I am very comfortable being part of.”
Barnes and her husband relocated to Cedar City after her retirement from the California-based Corrections Department.
On any given day you can find Barnes and partner, Tami Watari, taking care of duties that require them to know the nuances of policy, ordinances, and procedures. “The volunteers may handle anything from on-site fingerprinting, or school traffic duties, to handing out ‘warning-slips’ for parking-code violations.”
She explained that officer-volunteers serve as a physical presence in the community, and more importantly, they free up full-time officers who carry out the more high-risk aspects of public safety work.” She says her tasks are varied in a program that requires the basics of CPR, and first aid training that may be needed if they should step into the role of First Responder.
When Barnes moved to Cedar City, she looked for volunteer opportunities that she felt would directly benefit the community and provide interaction with a variety of people.
“I happened to stop into this particular police department, they offered me a tour, and it seemed to me that this was a very good fit with my background.”
According to Barnes, the 15-member volunteer unit provides training for individuals who work with alcohol and tobacco products; helps with routine vacation-checks and handles general office duties. Depending on an individual’s personal interest, volunteers can be assigned to a variety of roles that support full-time officers in day-to-day operations.
“Sometimes that means writing a ‘warning tag’ for vehicle owners who park on streets past a 72 hour ordinance, or maybe helping with traffic patterns along a parade route,” says Barnes. “But I have to say it makes you feel good (as a volunteer) to be part of a great team and with Supervisors who show that they genuinely appreciate you.”
Barnes points out that Cedar City is a beautiful town, but petty crime is all too common.
She points out that building or vehicle break-ins set off alarms for police to respond to on a regular basis.
“As a volunteer, I prefer partnering-up during the shift with another officer-volunteer. In many ways, that is a back-up for us, and then, we always have our radio-dispatcher to rely on.”
While much of Barnes’ day may involve educating and warning the public about the rules and regulations involving vehicle parking or residential codes, she explains that volunteers also give people a chance to voice a concern they might have, or express a problem they might have encountered in their neighborhood.
“You could say, we are the eyes and ears for the community, and officers too.”
Barnes and her husband, Chris, enjoy taking recreational trips as members of the Trail Blazers — catching up on sewing projects, or serving in Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) Iron County Sheriff’s Department. She explains that (VIPS) volunteers must meet selection criteria and complete training in radio use, motorist-assistance, wild-fire safety, traffic control, home-away checks and in first aid.
“I would really like to see many more women consider volunteering in police work,” Barnes saidof her own experience, “It does require good communication skills and the ability to work with a wide variety of people – and law enforcement has always felt like family to me.”
Caption: Cedar City Police Department volunteers (left to right) Lonna Howard, Deb Fuller, Dawn Barnes, and Tami Watari are part of a 15-member volunteer program that handle officer support duties, and serve as the ‘eyes and ears’ for public safety in the community. For information on the CCPD volunteer program, contact Sgt. Jerry Womack (CCPD); for VIPS application, see the Iron County Sheriff’s Department, www.ironsheriff.net