New emergency volunteer force wields power


By Pamela Perez, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 4, 2003



Palm Beach County boasts an elite new volunteer force equipped to assist law enforcement during widespread disasters.

Sheriff's office officials inaugurated a class of 14 Citizens Observer Patrol volunteers Friday as the county's first Volunteer Emergency Response Team.

The team, based in suburban Boca Raton's District 7 station, will be assigned a handful of new duties related to disaster relief efforts, including traffic control, missing persons searches and disaster scene assistance.

The volunteers also received training in using radar guns to deter speeders.

The additional certification distinguishes the team as the most empowered law enforcement volunteers working under the sheriff's jurisdiction.

"Their training is as extensive as we can give them," said Lt. Jeffery Lindskoog.

The Volunteer Emergency Response Team members have been certified as a Community Emergency Response Team. The additional certification will allow them to relieve the district's 84 sworn deputies at disaster or crime scenes that require extended hours of guard duty.

In the past month, the 5,000 volunteers countywide clocked 15,000 hours of road patrol in squad cars marked for volunteer use. Unlike green-clad deputies, volunteers can be identified by their orange vests and white shirts.

Law enforcement officials say the training volunteers received in the Citizens Observer Patrol ensures they are prepared for the new duty.

As COP volunteers, "they've already had the training and they understand how law enforcement operates," said program coordinator Capt. Patrick Kenny.

Volunteer Carl Diliberto, a retired New York City firefighter, believes the district will benefit most from the program in a natural disaster.

In past hurricanes, "Miami was devastated. But we're going to be there for Palm Beach County," Diliberto said.

If the program is successful, officials said, it could be implemented in neighboring jurisdictions by 2004. It could expand next to District 4, western Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, which has about 65 percent of the COP volunteers.

pam_perez@pbpost.com