PINELLAS PARK – The Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association helps keep the lid on crime and donates time to a variety of worthwhile community efforts.
Headed by Bob Waggoner, who moved here two decades ago from Illinois, the association is composed of volunteer police officers who also raise funds for such causes as the American Cancer Society, the police department and local youth.
“We like to give back to the community and its citizens,” Waggoner said. “It’s very rewarding to help people.”
Waggoner’s wife is Beverly Waggoner, assistant to police Chief Doreen Thomas. A former convenience store owner, he works for Cox Target Media in the addressing division when not volunteering his time to the city.
“I was in the second class of 1998,” Waggoner said. “The training is more streamlined compared to years ago.”
A 40-hour parking ticket course, for example, is now only 16 hours.
“Volunteers get more hands-on training in such topics as traffic stops,” Waggoner said.
Six volunteers are left of the 20 in the original 1998 class. After graduation they went to St. Petersburg and Largo, where active volunteer police programs already existed, to further their education.
“We took the best ideas from each city and implemented them in Pinellas Park,” Waggoner said.
So why would a person put his life on the line as a volunteer police officer?
“We really don’t,” Waggoner said. “Our motto is ‘When in doubt, don’t do it.”
Waggoner said volunteer police back away from life -threatening situations and call for backup.
“We let regular officers handle such situations,” Waggoner said.
One role of the volunteer police is issuing citations to people parked illegally in handicapped zones. Sometimes a motorists gets antsy when facing a $250 ticket.
“I ask the violator if he or she realizes that the spaces are reserved for people with medical problems,” Waggoner said. “That usually defuses a situation.”
The association is involved in several annual events. One is a “Relay for Life” walk and the other is a yard sale with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
The fight against the dreaded disease is personal to Waggoner. Both his mother and sister died of cancer.
Volunteer police collect items from citizens and businesses and store them at Gateway Storage which donates space. The yard sale itself is held in the spring.
“We collected about $2,700 the first year and $8,200 the last time,” Waggoner said.
The association also sponsors the annual Holiday in the Park event, which offers crafts, vendors, photo sessions with Santa and a homemade train used for various city events.
Funds also are used to help finance police department projects, a scholarship program and other projects.
“We are extremely active in the community,” Waggoner, who has volunteered more than 2,000 hours since 1998, said.
Persons interested in joining the volunteer police are urged to contact Waggoner at police headquarters. Civilian police are expected to work at least 10 hours each month and pass basic background checks.