February 1, 1997
It was just a blip on the local television news broadcast last summer, but Shelia McKnight and dozens of other New Orleanians heard the call loud and clear. They became the first members of the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS).
"I heard about volunteering for the police through a blurb on the news," says McKnight, executive secretary for Tulane's Louisiana Alliance for Education Reform. "I called up the police station and told them that besides working as an office manager, I have 20 years of business teaching experience and I also teach WordPerfect [word-processing software]. They were elated. The police department had just purchased WordPerfect, but no one had trained the officers how to use it."
In August, McKnight taught a WordPerfect course to police officers in the Special Operations Division (composed of officers on the SWAT team and in the traffic, canine, mounted and reserve units). After her class, 20 line officers began writing their reports using the software, she says. Her work caught the attention of Police Chief Richard Pennington, who approved McKnight's appointment as president of the newly formed VIPS group. McKnight is looking for more people to join the volunteer organization.
"Anyone who is able to donate at least 12 hours per month can join," she says. "They can do anything from grooming the police horses to electrical work to teaching computer software applications. They can also work in the district houses doing office work. The police welcome any skill they have to offer."
With all the recent attention on crime in the city, McKnight says, volunteering to help the police is a way citizens can channel their frustration and anger and help make a safer community. "This is a positive step that individuals can take to fight crime," she says.
For more information on volunteering with the New Orleans Police Department, call McKnight at 891-7590.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org