Cape Coral, FL - Every day they fan out across Cape Coral to ensure the safety of the city's citizens.
Amazingly, they do it without collecting a paycheck or receiving any benefits, or on most occasions not even hearing a "thank you."
These are the people of the Cape Coral Police Department's Police Volunteer Unit (PVU).
With over 150 members strong, the program consists of three separate units; administration, marine, and patrol. Within those units, the volunteers are asked to handle such day to day tasks as fingerprinting services, parking enforcement, assisting in traffic control, special events, inspecting waterways, and much more.
By handling many of these different activities, the Police Volunteer Unit allows police officers to handle more pressing issues faced on the job, "With the hours they put in and all the functions they serve, they are a big help not only administratively but, to the officers on the road," said Cape Coral Police Chief Dave Newlan. "They take care of the small daily tasks that we need to get done. If it weren't for them, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things we do with our current staffing level."
In 2016, Chief Newlan says the PVU volunteers worked a total of 58,896 hours equaling salary savings to the city of over $1.3 million, "A lot of times you look at volunteers, and you don’t know what they do. When you look at that savings, it is a significant impact on not only the department but, the city as a whole. That is the money they are saving taxpayers every year."
To honor those who have given so selflessly and created such a positive impact on the community by being part of the program over the past year, the police department held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday, inviting all the members of the Police Volunteer Unit to the Cape Coral Yacht Club Ballroom for lunch and disbursement of their annual awards.
During the ceremony the department presented awards for service time, those who volunteered over 1,000 hours in 2016, achievement awards, and the Volunteer of the Year Award, which was given to PVU Corporal Doreen Robertson.
A member of the Police Volunteer Unit since 2013, Robertson serves as the program's Event Coordinator. In that position, Robertson is responsible for coordinating details for the PVU at special events around the city, and ensuring that all runs smoothly under her watch, "My job is to make sure we can be proud of what we do, and people don’t have to worry about us, and the job gets done at a 110% level," explains Robertson.
During 2016, Robertson logged in a unit high 1,432 volunteer hours. That is the equivalent of nearly 36 40-hour work weeks she performed as a volunteer.
Robertson moved to Cape Coral in 2011 from New Jersey where she retired after working in the state's CERT program with state police and municipalities. When she learned of the Police Volunteer Unit, Robertson says she jumped at the opportunity, "When I got here and realized I could volunteer with the police department and not just emergency services I knew it was something I had to do."