"They" say it's better to give than to receive and if that is the case then the new Volunteer Law Enforcement Officer Alliance, a national non-profit organization, is a nice gift to all sworn volunteer auxiliary and reserve officers across the nation.
Born out of what was perceived as a need to fill a gap in the national scope of operations, several of the VLEOA's founding officers and directors came from other national organizations that some felt may have lost track of their initial mission statement and were perhaps no longer meeting their goals. According to Dave Rayburn, the VLEOA's founding President and 20 plus year active member of the Florida Highway Patrol Auxiliary unit, "Our goal is to be the nation's leader in volunteer law enforcement information, training and support for communities, agencies and individual officers."
To help guide the VLEOA towards it mission and ensure it stays on track the VLEOA board of directors consist of experienced Reserve and Auxiliary police officers, deputy sheriffs and state troopers with over 220 years of combined service. Just as important as the depth and breadth of experience on the board is the fact that none of the members are "interested parties". While that term may seem to be a negative, it's actual a positive.
The term interested parties as it relates to non-profit organizations refers to board members and corporate officers who are related either by marriage or by birth, such as brother-in-laws, fathers, brothers and sisters, etc. While having a relative on your organizations board does not automatically spell trouble, the potential is there. Why you ask?
While there are currently no full time members of the VLEOA board who receive a salary to run the organization, if that were to ever change, the potential to influence the salary and/or benefits of the paid individual could be influenced by interested parties. In one real life example, a well known national organization that sponsors a once a year crime prevention event ran into trouble by having a board of directors that consisted almost entirely of interested parties. Once exposed, the non-profit's federal funding was cut off and the organizations remaining corporate sponsors demanded the board be reorganized not to include any interested parties, in addition to other changes such as a salary reduction for the executive director, etc. While socializing with relatives during the holidays is great, having them as a puppet board of directors is not so great for the well being of a non-profit organization.
According to one of the VLEOA's founding directors, Marc Spigel, another long time member of law enforcement with over 30 years of active service and current Captain of the Framingham MA Auxiliary Police unit, "Everyone involved in the formation of the VLEOA is doing it for the right reason, to help promote and support the use of auxiliary and reserve officers across the nation as we're all active members ourselves and see the benefits on a daily basis." A quick look at the make up of the board and directors posted on the VLEOA's web site appears to back up this claim with an impressive group of professionals.
What to expect in 2010 and beyond
While membership in the VLEOA is not free, according to Dave Rayburn, President of the VLEOA, membership benefits planned in the near future include product discounts and a national training conference, but the main benefit of membership for many is a Death and Disability Insurance policy which is available immediately. For those whose are not covered by their agencies or who feel their coverage is lacking, it protects members with $35,000 coverage while performing any and all law enforcement, emergency response or criminal justice duties whether on-duty or off-duty. Individuals who would like to learn more about this or the VLEOA organization in general may do so by visiting their web site listed at the bottom of this article.
Another benefit of interest is the VLEOA's first annual International Reserve Training Conference being held on February 19, through 21, 2010, at the South Florida Community College Safety Academy in Avon Park, Florida. From a straight line, the location is approximately 60 miles east of Tampa and 60 miles west of Vero Beach, just south of Space Coast, home to Cape Canaveral and the Space Shuttle program. The location offers those who are traveling from out of the area the opportunity to enjoy world class beaches and tourist attractions before or after the conference all within a few hours driving distance in what can only be described as some of the some of the finest tropical weather in the world that time of year. Planned courses of instruction for the conference include:
- Situational Use of Force
- Courtroom Demeanor and Testimony
- Practical Crime Scene Techniques
- Defensive Tactics and Ground Fighting
- and more...
While a number of states such as California have their own statewide non-profit reserve organizations which do a good job supporting their members, not all do or even offer one. For those who have no local or regional representation and feel left out or also want to be part of a national organization, the VLEOA might be a good organization to look at for the support, benefits and camaraderie they have to offer.
As we close out the year 2009, our nation has witnessed a horrific increase in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. According to preliminary statistics compiled by the NLEOMF, the number of officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire in 2009 increased 24 percent from 2008. In just two separate incidents alone, our nation lost eight police officers with the most recent tragedy occurring in Lakewood, Washington. While the loss of these officers is bad enough, we sometimes forget the total devastation these losses have on the families left behind and of course their fellow members of law enforcement who they so proudly called their brothers and sisters. Add to that the loss felt by those who knew these brave men and women from high school, college, neighbors, PTAs, church on Sunday, etc. and the devastation easily reaches into the thousands of people. While social scientist and mental health professionals conduct studies and ponder the reasons for the significant increase in violence against our brave heroes, the bottom line is, the streets of America are becoming more and more dangerous to patrol while enforcing the laws of our land.
Any thing that can be done to increase the number of officers, whether they are full time sworn or part time reserve and auxiliary officers is much needed. Considering the dire financial conditions that many of our cities and counties are facing, sadly the prospect of more full time officers is to far in the future to make an immediate impact on increasing officer safety. To that end, organizations such as the VLEOA whose mission is in part to advocate for and help increase the number of armed and sworn reserve and auxiliary officers is much needed. Perhaps one way we can help honor our fallen brothers and sisters of law enforcement is to help support organizations that strive to help protect those who are still with us, so they can continue to be with us, and live long, healthy and happy natural lives and enjoy the fruits of their labor long into retirement.
On a personal note, with this being my last article for the year 2009, I'd like to wish all members of law enforcement, full time, reserves, civilian volunteers, retired, etc. and of course all our brave men and women of the military along with their families a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a very safe and Happy New Year!