Banquet held for PROUD volunteers

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Picayune Police Department held a banquet Monday night to honor the citizen volunteers of the Picayune Retired: Organized, United, and Dedicated (PROUD).

Lisa Jones, who works in the records office at the police department and serves as the police department and PROUD liaison, said Monday night that the group has 10 members, seven of whom received President’s Awards at the banquet for their volunteer service to the community. Award recipients included D.C. Breland, Ron Campbell, Earl Favre, Bob Geiger, Daniel Leonard, Maude Ritchey and Bob Wall. Jones said the majority of those honored have been with the program since its inception.

“If they can donate time to give to us, this is the least we can do for them,” Jones said.

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The PROUD patrol was formed by Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke in 2004. It consists solely of retired people, who are trained by the police department to perform duties such as traffic control, internal office responsibilities, school crossings, etc. To work with the PROUD patrol, an person must be retired, must live somewhere within Pearl River County and must provide their own medical insurance. Prior law enforcement experience is not necessary, Luke said.

Jones said schedules vary, but can night patrol, or patrol at special events in the city such as the street fair. Jones said each worker is required to volunteer at least 16 hours per month.

Luke said the members of PROUD provide a service that is crucial to the community.

“The benefits to our community are numerous. The visibility (of the PROUD patrol) is a tremendous service to the community. (They are) always there for us, which frees up officers for other duties. The group is cost-saving, and we have saved about $100,000 so far since implementing the program and using volunteers … This is a program created for the people by the people … My vision is to see the PROUD patrol keep growing. I like to think of PROUD as Picayune’s best kept secret,” Luke said.

Luke said Monday night that the program is part of the reason for the national accreditation of the police department.

“(They) are an integral part of the police department and its accreditation. One of the things looked at for accreditation is what programs the department participates in that involve the community,” Luke said.

Luke said he also calls the program the “Back to the Future” program.

“I say ‘back to the future’ because these senior citizens are going back to mentor those younger officers in the department. They give them the benefit of their wisdom and experience,” Luke said.

Picayune City Councilman Donald Parker, who was present at the banquet and provided the invocation and blessing of the food, said he was glad to have the chance to honor the citizens.

“I think it is marvelous and wonderful that we have such city and department leaders that endeavor to put together programs such as this. I hope that the program increases and prospers in the future,” Parker said.

Jones said the program is recruiting and would like to find at least five more members. Anyone interested in joining the program, or for more information about the program, can call Lisa Jones at the police department at (601) 798-7411, ext. 115.