OAKHURST – Sheriff John Anderson was honored today by a room full of Citizens on Patrol (COPs) Volunteers – one of many programs he created as Sheriff, and one of numerous programs for which he will be best remembered when he retires next month.
Forty volunteers surprised Sheriff Anderson with private farewell luncheon at El Cid in Oakhurst.
The majority of these volunteers spent their professional careers working in either the private or public sector, including law enforcement, fire service, medicine and technology.
Some of the volunteers continue to work full-time jobs, while still finding time to serve as Madera County’s second set of eyes and ears, patrolling roads in the mountains and on the Valley floor.
Citizens On Patrol was the first program Sheriff Anderson established after he first took office in 1998.
The COPs concept started in 1999 with an unmarked car and a couple of volunteers. The man sitting to Sheriff Anderson’s left (Al Jackson) in the photo above, was the original COPs volunteer who patrolled the Madera Ranchos in his own private vehicle.
More than a decade later, that one unit grew into an entire fleet of fully marked COP Volunteer patrol cars.
COPs are celebrated as some of the most dedicated volunteer public servants, who not only donate their time but their purse strings to finance critical training and purchase their own uniforms.
Every member serves the organization for a certain amount of time each month, patrolling their designated beats in a COPs marked patrol unit. COPs can be seen routinely patrolling areas that include both sides of the Valley, Oakhurst, North Fork, Coarsegold and Bass Lake.
They not only patrol neighborhoods throughout the entire county, they also conduct house checks for citizens who are on vacation. They also handle welfare checks for the newly created Elder Orphans program.
Additionally, they are routinely called upon to assist in Search & Rescue missions, and man traffic control during criminal investigations and emergencies. Their much-needed presence proved invaluable this past summer during the devastating fires that ravished parts of Eastern Madera County’s foothill communities.
They are trained as emergency first responders, and some are even FEMA certified.
Having garnered a number of state awards since its inception, the COPs program is regarded as one of the most successful volunteer organizations in the nation, says Sheriff Anderson.
“While our deputies must patrol nearly 3,000 square miles of Madera County, our COPs focus on their specific neighborhoods and streets,” he says. “They are truly our department’s second set of eyes and ears.”
And they have a reputation for always being on time, if not early. As predicted, the Sheriff showed up right on time today, at 11:30 a.m. As for the COPs, they arrived an hour earlier.
Sheriff Anderson has often said of these volunteers, “When you need them by eight, they’ll show up ready for duty at seven. You’ve heard that old saying, ‘If you can’t be on time, be early.’ That pretty much sums up this volunteer program. Our department depends on them, and we know we can count on them.”
Today’s surprise celebratory luncheon was just that, a surprise. Sheriff Anderson thought he was meeting some of the team members for a meeting of the minds. He was stunned when he entered the room to see the entire team standing at attention.
In true COPs form, these volunteers wanted to show their gratitude by recognizing the man they have called their leader for 15 years. Participants credit Sheriff Anderson with continuing to nurture this program, and treating every volunteer the same way he treats his entire full time staff – like family.
As one of the COPs expressed during the luncheon, “Sheriff, you are the one leader who has always been there for us.”