PACT: volunteers critical to public safety

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

PACT: volunteers critical to public safetyPolice and Community Together Coordinator Andy Pudgorski talks about the important role volunteers play in supporting the Ridgecrest Police Department. — Photo by Laura Austin

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In a landscape where criminal trends across the state are climbing and budgets are increasingly impacted, Ridgecrest remains one of the most statistically safe communities in California. Ridgecrest Police Department has repeatedly cited its relationships with dedicated leaders and volunteers in the community as a critical piece of that ability to maintain public safety.

In that vein, Police and Community Together Coordinator Andy Pudgorski addressed the Ridgecrest Exchange Club last week to discuss how his organization supports the operations of RPD.

Some 40 active members contributed more than 10,000 combined hours each year on tasks ranging from perimeter security to crowd control to traffic conducting to graffiti removal. “Over the years, PACT members have saved the city more than $4 million through service,” said Pudgorski.

For the most part, “PACT members are the eyes and the ears of the community. If we see or hear something, we report it to the officers and let them take care of it.”

But volunteers are also called in to help with other needs that free up officers to focus on investigation and enforcement.

Each member has to pass a basic background check and must commit to a minimum number of service hours, which can be accrued through vacation checks or transportation support, along with the aforementioned tasks.

“One of the great things about PACT is that, depending on what your passion is, there are a lot of ways to support us,” said Capt. Ryan Marrone. “We have people who work at the animal shelter or conduct LiveScan screenings or help with fairs and parades.”

Pudgorski said that volunteers range in age from 18 to 94, but the organization has a burgeoning membership among the younger age ranges.

“We have a different problem now, which is that most of the volunteers have full-time jobs,” he said. “For years, we had a lot of retirees, which gave us a little more flexibility in when people were available.

“For some of the younger participants, PACT serves as a launch point for their careers in law enforcement. We have people who go through the Explorers and PACT and eventually become sworn in. Sgt. Nathan Lloyd is one of our officers who used to be a member of PACT.”

Marrone said that the PD welcomes new members not only for PACT, but also for the Community Emergency Response Team, which similarly supports the police department for community events and has ongoing training for various disaster scenarios.

“PACT is vital,” he said. “Without them, our day-to-day operations would be truly hampered. We need them.

“The fact that we have such willing volunteers who care about our community allows our other officers and employees to focus on their roles. I think PACT is priceless — you couldn’t put a value on that organization. I cannot imagine being able to do this job without them.”

PACT functions are funded mostly through donations, which offset the costs of uniforms and other expenses.

Pudgorski said that anyone interested in learning more about PACT can find the organization on Facebook under “Ridgecrest PACT.”?Information is also available at ridgecrestpact.org.

Story First Published: 2018-07-27