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Volunteers keep motoring with new SUVs
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Pictured, from left, are Public Safety Unit officers Lester Cowell, Norman Elrod and Jimmy Whitman with one of the new vehicles.

McMinnville Police Department’s Public Safety Unit is celebrating 12 years in operation with two new SUVs.
“They are real nice vehicles,” said PSU officer Norman Elrod of the 2015 Fords. “I can’t express how happy we are to have them. We were having problems with the older vehicles so we are very thrilled to have these.”
The PSU was created in 2003 and two vehicles were purchased at that time. The mission of the unit is to enhance the effectiveness of the Police Department by performing duties that do not require a certified police officer and therefore relieve officers of those duties.
PSU officers work as volunteers and are trained to direct traffic at crash scenes and structure fires, escort funeral processions, assist motorists with vehicle trouble, patrol parks within the city of McMinnville, and help with traffic control during local events, among other duties.
Elrod was among the founding officers in the group. He expressed gratitude to the city for its continued support of the unit with the purchase of the two new vehicles to replace the ones purchased in 2003.
“We’ve always had support from the city from the top down,” said Elrod. “We appreciate that continued support. Of course, we’ve received negative comments from the public about why the city would spend tax dollars on a bunch of volunteers who can’t do the same thing as regular officers. When you look at the number of activities and functions we participate in, this unit pays for itself.”
During 2014, PSU officers volunteered a total of 2,204 hours. Year-to-date in 2015, the PSU officers have volunteered a total of 1,081 hours in responding 486 times to assist with patrolling city parks, funeral escorts, stalled vehicles, special events, fire assistance, medical assistance, traffic control and welfare visits, among other duties.
With each passing year, the demands on law enforcement personnel increase. According to the latest statistics offered by the department, police officers received 17,162 calls for service in 2010. The number has increased every year. In 2014, the department received 21,801 calls for service.
McMinnville Police Department Major Mike Lane says PSU volunteers are invaluable to the department because they free up police officers to respond to more serious issues.
“We would have a difficult time covering all the activities that take place in the city without this unit,” said Lane. “As much as our calls have increased over the years and our staffing levels the way they are, it would be very difficult to cover all the events that take place today without this unit. We appreciate all they do.”
For more about the Public Safety Unit or how to become a volunteer PSU officer, McMinnville Police Department can be reached at 473-3808.