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Calendar >  Vista Sheriff’s Senior Voluntary Patrol

Vista Sheriff’s Senior Voluntary Patrol

By   /  January 19, 2015  /  3 Comments


Riding with the Vista Sheriff’s Senior Patrol
patsheriffIt was still dark when I pulled out of my driveway at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning. The sun barely poked out from the Eastern horizon as I eased my car into a parking space at the County Facilities on Melrose Avenue. The short walk to the Sheriff Station was just what I needed to shake off any remaining dregs from my night’s rest. Promptly at 7:00 AM I was standing in front of the Sheriff’s lobby waiting for someone to open up and trying hard not to look like a person just released from the jail, here to collect their belongings. I was here for a totally different purpose. Today, I was finally going to get a “Ride-Along” with the Vista Sheriff’s Senior Voluntary Patrol. My good friend Ann Pion Parker had suggested that I should do this. She started the Vista Senior Voluntary Sheriff Patrol back when Mayor Morris Vance was still in office. I had been requesting this for months and I was a bit excited at finally getting this opportunity.

I am somewhat familiar with law enforcement patrol cars. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. My mother was a dispatcher for the California Highway Patrol when I was 10 years old.  She was a single mother and after school my three brothers and I would walk down to the Highway Patrol office to wait for her to get off work. Some of the officers would let us look inside their patrol cars and listen to our mother’s voice over the radio. We would wait in their lobby and look at their photo book that contained gruesome pictures of horrific traffic accidents. That lobby so many years ago reminded me a lot of the lobby I waited in today for the Sheriff’s office to open. Just one exception…there were no gory photos.

Suddenly the door opened and Volunteer Patrol Officer Jerry Black gave me a warm greeting. He escorted me into the depths of the Sheriff’s station, past offices with people starting their morning routines, to a break room and a welcome cup of coffee. The room filled up with the white shirted volunteers and introductions were made. Over the years I’ve attended numerous meeting like this and it soon became apparent that this group was functioning like a team. This was a team that knew their mission and was just gathering last minute special instructions for the day’s patrol.

Jerry Black operates communications

Senior Patrol Officer Jerry Black operates communications

I met the Senior Training and recruiting officer, Jim Baynes, who assigned me to the V71 beat with Senior Patrol Officers, Kathy Wilcox and Jerry Black. I learned that there were three patrol beats for Vista and that V71 was basically everything North of the I-78. The other beats cover South Vista and the County areas. Sometimes the patrol beats overlap but rarely do they cover the same area at the same time. On those rare occasions they converge to control traffic for crime scenes and emergencies as needed. The routes taken for the respective 2 person patrol cars are varied by day and by individual preferences. There are however, requirements that take priority during their daily Monday thru Friday patrols.

I was a little surprised to learn that the duties of the Senior Voluntary patrol are many. They provide some very important services to our community. One of the most important services is the one they provide to homebound citizens under the YANA program. YANA stands for “You Are Not Alone”. Through caring, compassion, connection and community, YANA’s mission is to eliminate loneliness.

(See more at: http://www.yanacares.com/about-yana/#sthash.Nm5NG6pC.dpuf) The Senior Voluntary Patrol makes “Wellness Checks” to aged and/or invalid persons requesting this service. We overheard one of the other patrol cars report that they were unable to contact one such client. Following protocol they had called the person’s phone number and then tried to contact family members or neighbors listed on the unresponsive persons contact list. A door to the residence was open but the Senior Volunteer Patrol members are required to call for assistance from a Sheriff Deputy. Only the Sheriff Deputy can enter the home to search for the resident. In this instance, there was nobody and no body at the home.

On Patrol beat V71

Senior Patrol Officer Kathy Wilcox

Other responsibilities of the Senior Volunteer Patrol include “Vacation Checks” requested by residents that are temporarily away, and assisting with traffic and crowd control at auto accidents, crime scenes, and special events. They also patrol numerous water facilities and  enforce the disabled parking regulations. Our Patrol cruised dozens of parking lots at medical centers, shopping centers, and parks.  We could not find even one motorist that was incorrectly parking in a disabled parking spot. Darn! Have you ever seen someone illegally park in a handicapped spot and wish you could see them get a citation? Today was my chance but it never happened. Darn again!

We performed our one and only “Vacation Check satisfactorily”. I watched the officers call in to dispatch that they were exiting the vehicle to make a check of the home. Before walking towards the house in question they opened my door so I would not be locked inside. They checked the two doors at the front of the residence and continued around the one side to check the back door and windows. By the way, did I mention that I was locked in the back seat? No, not cuffed, just needing to be let out of the vehicle when we came to a stop. Everything at the residence was in good order and there was nothing to report except that the vacation check was satisfactorily completed. I was slightly disappointed but I’m sure the homeowner was very pleased.

When riding in the confines of a patrol car formalities are quickly brushed aside and the three of us were quickly on a first name basis. Kathy and I shared some common backgrounds in the Engineering Field and Farmer’s Markets (Don’t ask…it’s complicated). She became interested in Law Enforcement after serving as a jurist but never followed through on it. It was only when she was approached by a recruiter from the Volunteer Patrol while at the Farmer’s Market in Vista, that she finally took the step that led to her being the driver of our Patrol Car today. My other partner for the day, Senior Volunteer Patrol Officer, Jerry Black, was nagged into joining the patrol by his son, Blackie, who is now a Lieutenant serving with the Sheriff’s Dept. and conveniently has an office down the hall from the office of the Senior Volunteer Patrol. Jerry is now in his fifth year with the patrol. He showed me the massive contents of the trunk and explained the purpose of each item found there.  He also told me that the funny looking red and black tool on the dash was used for breaking windows and cutting seat belt restraints during rescue operations.

sheriff1County Area just outside Vista

County Area just outside Vista

For the afternoon shift we swapped beats so I could see the county beat (and lots of avocado trees). Some of the roads we traveled were narrow and not well maintained but the views were spectacular. I saw mansions tucked behind huge groves of avocados. I saw beautiful landscapes. But this was more than a scenic tour. The patrol is constantly on the lookout for abandoned autos, illegal dumping, and most importantly… any sign of fire.

I have to report that both officers are truly friendly and they both like what they are doing. They go to extra effort to make sure a car has the proper disabled placard before writing a citation. They carry around stuffed animals and silver Sheriff stickers to pass out to children. They wave at people they pass and get waved at in return. They patiently wait for pedestrians in parking lots and generally are what I would refer to as great Ambassadors for the Sheriff’s Dept. as they ride around in their patrol car with over 130,000 miles on the odometer.

Both Jerry and Kathy simultaneously and quickly answered my final question of “what they would tell someone thinking of joining the Senior Volunteer Patrol”, with , “Highly recommend it!” Kathy added that the patrol is a very well run organization that gets lots of support from the public and from the Sheriff’s Dept. Jerry nodded an enthusiastic agreement. Kathy also told me she especially liked when they were called out for special events and she even likes working the front desk. She said that interacting with the public and the Sheriff Deputies was always fun and interesting.

Recruits for the Vista Senior Volunteer Patrol are currently being searched for. To qualify to be a member of this elite patrol you must be over 50 years old, a U.S. citizen or legal alien that has applied for citizenship, in good health and physical condition (physician verified), possess a valid driver’s license and have a good driving record. You must also pass a background investigation and not have had any convictions of a felony.


Senior Patrol Officers Jerry Black and Kathy Wilcox

The recruits must attend a two week academy run by the Sheriff’s Dept. where they learn such skills as Radio Communications, CPR, Safety, Patrol Observations, Vacation and Welfare Checks, and writing parking citations. They also get training in crime prevention, senior scams, elder abuse, gangs, narcotics, terrorism, arson, bombs, and firestorms.

If this sounds interesting to you and you meet the requirements,  I urge you to contact the Senior Volunteer Patrol Recruiter,  Jim Baynes, by calling him at (760) 940-4434 or going to the Vista Patrol Station located at 325 South Melrose. The volunteers you will be joining are all from various former careers and are all very interesting. They are also very caring individuals doing a great service for us. For more info, go to http://www.sdsheriff.net/co_svp.html or just call Jim.


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  1. Karyl says:

    Vista Cascade MHP love the senior volunteers that come through our park daily. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO

  2. Mike Willever says:

    Thanks to all the SVP folks!

  3. Stuart Droker says:

    Senior Volunteers are the “eyes and ears” of the Sheriff’s Dept. We donate our time and enjoy what we do. JOIN US, it will be a fun and rewarding experience.

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