RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There are 122 sworn officer vacancies at the Raleigh Police Department, and the staffing shortage means the department is spread thin in their mission to protect and serve.
But there are renewed efforts to keep people in the city safe.
New SUV’s are driving around town, with the words “RPD Volunteer” emblazoned on the side.
The vehicles are less than a month old, and are part of a new initiative to get more people to volunteer with the police department.
While the volunteers are not sworn officers, they are doing their part to fill in some of the gaps.
When Steven Metzler gets behind the wheel of his own patrol car, he’s on a mission.
“We’re their eyes, their ears, and sometimes their hands in handling various calls,” he explained.
The 80-year-old retiree started volunteering a decade ago, long before the department began struggling with recruitment and retention.
“We’re merely an adjunct,” added Metzler.
He’s one of the 10 volunteers who went through special academy classes and training to help officers patrol local streets and parks.
“If we get there before they do, we can alert them to what they’re going to see when they get there,” explained Metzler. “[If we’re at] an accident, how many vehicles, how severe, are they blocking a road? Are there injuries? Do we need EMS?”
The volunteer program has also recently expanded, adding a Greenway division to their list of opportunities.
“It’s huge and there’s no way three officers [on the Greenway unit] can cover that. The city has asked us to be out there,” said Barbara Schmid.
Schmid is the police volunteer coordinator.
She told CBS17 they only have about 80 volunteers across all divisions.
“We need about 100 to cover that much area [of the Greenway], so we can be helping our officers out there,” Schmid added.
More volunteers are needed in every area. While they are only required to spend 15 hours a month volunteering, there are just not enough bodies to keep up.
“Some [volunteers] put 50, 60, 80, 100 hours a month,” said Metzler.
But they believe their impact to the community is well worth it.
“If you want to see a change, then you have to be the change. So volunteer,” said Schmid.
“The feeling you get when you help somebody is very gratifying,” added Metzler. “You can’t get it anywhere else.”
Because the volunteers are not sworn officers, they cannot pull people over for speeding, and they do not go out to high risk or dangerous calls– but every little bit helps.
And the Raleigh Police Department always looking for others who want to help and give back to their community.