What began as an interest in high school became the foundation for a unique and fulfilling career for Liz Allen of Auburn. As police planner and coordinator of the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) Program for the Auburn Police Department, Allen recruits, trains and places community volunteers in a variety of tasks that support officers of the APD. Allen’s job keeps her busy with both the department and events within the community, but that pace isn’t entirely new. Her experience volunteering with organizations like the American Red Cross, Junior League of Portland, Up With People and the Elder Abuse Task Force of Androscoggin County prepared her for the mindset and job demands the position requires.

“When this job opportunity presented itself, I was thrilled,” said Allen. “I knew that it was perfect for me. I thought, ‘I can do this. I know volunteers — I am a volunteer.'”

Name: Liz Allen

Age: 39

Town: Auburn

What would you consider to be the overall community benefits of your position? For me, the biggest benefit by far is the police/community partnership that we are developing. Connecting community volunteers with local law enforcement is so rewarding. Demands on local law enforcement increase every day. VIPS volunteers support what our sworn officers and staff do on a day-to-day basis. Another huge benefit of VIPS is improved community relations — these volunteers become law enforcement ambassadors and advocates in their community.

Who inspired you to pursue this type of work? Well, I have been a volunteer most of my life, and for that I credit my wonderful family and the teachers and role models who have influenced me through the years.

Where do you see police volunteering this year? In five years? Chief Crowell and Deputy Chief Moen have a truly remarkable vision for APD’s volunteer program. One significant goal this year is to have 100 VIPS volunteers, and we are well on our way. We currently have more than 30 outstanding volunteers who serve the department in a variety of ways; we have in-house administrative volunteers who help out with the phones, filing, data entry and other special projects. We also have our APD Citizen Patrol team, and these volunteers receive specialized training; in addition to patrolling Auburn’s retail shopping areas, they perform vacant house checks and assist citizens who have locked their keys in their cars. They are a great source of support for our Patrol Division, serving as extra sets of eyes and ears. Still, other volunteers help at community events like National Night Out and the Balloon Festival, and we have a whole team of volunteers who mentor the teens involved with our Explorer Post. These are youths who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. In five years, I envision a vibrant, finely tuned and highly productive volunteer “division” at Auburn PD; perhaps a small “fleet” of VIPS vehicles; a trusted and highly trained CERT team; and a team of effective and enthusiastic youth volunteers. The vision really is for our volunteer program to become a model for law enforcement agencies across Maine and beyond.

Is that Chief Crowell’s real hair? No comment. Just kidding, of course it is. It may (or may not) be a
little more gray than when I first began here. And if it is, I take
absolutely no blame for that.

How was the concept of volunteers for the police department received? I imagine that the officers were skeptical at first, but our volunteers
are certainly earning the officers’ respect and trust day by day. For me, the
surest sign of the success of this program is the fact that the patrol
officers and supervisors come to me quite regularly to acknowledge the
outstanding work of a volunteer; to ask if our VIPS could help with a
special project or detail; or even take on more responsibility. The
acceptance, confidence and respect of our officers ultimately
determines the success of our program.

What is it really like to work with cops? I love it. It’s a fast-paced, fascinating and highly charged
atmosphere. I am surrounded by intelligent, funny, hard-working
individuals (who keep me on my toes) and I love every minute of it! I
tell all of my friends that I have the best job in the world.

Have any good pranks up your sleeve to get back at some of the officers? No way, they will always outdo (and outsmart) me. And they carry Tazers! (Just kidding).

What is your favorite thing about your work? The Auburn community? The very best thing about my work is the opportunity to be a part of
the APD family. The men and women of the Auburn Police Department are
smart, determined, committed to this community and fiercely loyal to
each other and their families. They inspire me. The second best thing about my work is the community volunteers who
enthusiastically support this agency. I’m proud to say that the people
who live and work here care deeply about their families and their
community, and they are a huge resource for law enforcement.

Why should citizens consider enrolling in Citizen’s Police Academy? Our hope is that our CPA will lead to improved community relations and a better understanding of what our officers do. VIPS is an ever-evolving program with limitless potential that builds strong partnerships within the community. To paraphrase what Chief Crowell often tells our CPA classes, this is a great chance for the APD to “pull back the curtain” and show our citizens exactly what it is we do and how we do it. Our CPA alumni build lasting friendships with their classmates and with the officers who teach the classes.

Editor’s note: Anyone
interested in learning more about becoming a VIPS volunteer can reach Liz at 333-6650.


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