COARSEGOLD – Sheriff John Anderson raised his right hand to swear in six new members of the department’s nationally recognized Citizens on Patrol (COP) Unit Tuesday evening at the Yosemite Lakes Park Clubhouse.
These new volunteers join the ranks of the now 50-plus member strong unit of Madera County’s COPs, and give Sheriff Anderson six more reasons to be proud of a unit he has built up over his 16 year tenure in office.
(From Left to Right: Matt McLaskey, Bob McLaskey, Nancy McLaskey, Tom Wheeler, CSO Jo Ann Evans, Shannon Picciano, Sheriff John P. Anderson, Mike Decker, Doug Morton, Rick Phillips)
As with every class of COP volunteers, each brings a rather impressive resume of past professions, and this new class of recruits is no exception.
This swearing-in marked a first for the department; the first ever father, mother and son team – Bob McLaskey, Nancy McLaskey and Matt McLaskey – who will be patrolling the Madera Ranchos.
Others with valuable skill sets include Mike Decker of Oakhurst, who held a similar position in Sonoma County patrolling state parks on horseback, and Doug Morton, who comes with a background in Search & Rescue and moved to Madera County after retiring from the Newport Beach Police Department.
While the role of Citizens On Patrol volunteers is mainly to assist law enforcement, many are FEMA certified – trained to work the front lines as first responders.
The job requires extensive training, all which is funded by the volunteers themselves. All cadets must complete 40 hours of training in patrol procedures, first aid, driving traffic control and preservation of crime scenes. They buy their own uniforms and equipment and maintain their vehicles out of their own pockets.
COPs have made a huge difference in the way law enforcement makes its presence known in the community, says Sheriff Anderson.
“They are a much needed second set of eyes and ears,” says Anderson. “Their contribution to our department is a vital service which they provide for free to help us ensure the safety of Madera County citizens. In their nearly two decades of public service, our volunteers have made Madera County’s Citizens on Patrol one of the most successful programs in the nation.”
COP volunteers perform a variety of duties, and assist the Sheriff’s Office with things such as traffic control, vacant house checks, missing persons, parades and funerals, patrols, Search & Rescue, blocking off crime scenes and large events.
“Imagine the amount of money we’ve saved,” Sheriff Anderson told the volunteers, both new recruits and veteran COPs. “You do things deputies would have to do if you weren’t there.”
Anderson credits the volunteers themselves with the success of the program.
“We’ve done a lot over the last 15 years, but this is probably one of the better programs we’ve put together,” said Anderson, “and it’s not because of us, but because of the volunteers we get.”
The Sheriff asked the group how many of them had been at the Raymond Parade, and many hands went up. Those hands stayed up when he asked, “and how many of you got there at 9 o’clock even though the parade didn’t start until 11? That shows your eagerness and dedication, and I commend you for that,” he said, citing the 9,900-plus hours the volunteers have put in over the past year.
Sheriff Anderson noted that with most of the COPs being retired citizens, they bring something very important to the job – a certain level of maturity that only comes with years. “You’ve been there, done that, so this is just the kind of thing that comes naturally to you.”
After taking the Oath of Office, administered by Sheriff Anderson, each graduate received an award for successfully completing three months of training in the COP academy. They were also honored with Certificates of Appreciation from the Board of Supervisors presented by District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, and also from Shannon Picciano, District Representative for State Senator Anthony Cannella.
Though this was a night for honoring the graduates, John Pelowski, who along with his wife Suzetta was recently recognized as top COP of the Year, presented Sheriff Anderson with a plaque to show their respect, admiration and appreciation for all the Sheriff has done for them and the COPs program.
“Sheriff Anderson brought the COP concept to the Board of Supervisors, got it approved and nurtured it to its present day role within Madera County,” said Pelowski. “He has been an ardent support of the volunteers who staff the patrol units within the program.
“Some may think it a little premature to give this award at this time, however this graduating class will be the last graduation that Sheriff John presides over and to whom he administers the oath of office. Although Sheriff Anderson has another eight months before retiring and I’m sure he will be showered with many more accolades from various individuals and groups, the COPs hope he will regard our little group as one of his more memorable achievements.”
After expressing his deep appreciation for the honor and his heart-felt thanks to the “troops,” Anderson smiled and alluded to a possible write-in campaign, whereupon the event culminated with congratulations, conversation and most importantly, cake.
The new recruits and their beats: Matt McLaskey (Madera Ranchos), Bob McLaskey (Madera Ranchos) Nancy McLaskey (Madera Ranchos), Mike Decker (Oakhurst), Doug Morton (Oakhurst) and Rick Phillips (Coarsegold).
If you are 18 years or older and would like to learn more about the Sheriff’s COP program, contact the Madera County Sheriff’s Office COP Coordinator and Community Service Officer Joann Evans at 559-642-3201.