Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the number of incoming volunteers is the lowest in a decade, not the total number of volunteers. After this story first published, the city of Maricopa notified us it reported numbers erroneously. The police department currently utilizes 47 volunteers, according to city spokesperson Quinn Konold.
Barry Vogel volunteered at the Maricopa Police Department for eight years. After he felt pushed out of the program, he recently stepped away.
There are many more like him.
The number of incoming volunteers in the police department is down nearly 80% since 2018, according to data obtained by InMaricopa. With just 16 new volunteers on the schedule, it’s the fewest to join in a decade.
“Our volunteer numbers have ebbed and flowed over the years,” said Monica Williams, the department’s spokesperson.
In recent years, MPD added a minimum service hour requirement for unpaid workers to remain active, Williams said. It takes time and human capital to onboard volunteers.
The department saw a drastic drop from 70 new volunteers in 2018 to 23 the following year. More recently, it’s closer to a dozen.
And most didn’t stick around. MPD currently utilizes 47 volunteers, half the number who joined in 2018 and 2019 alone.
COVID-19 is partially to blame. No new volunteers were recruited during the pandemic, Williams said.
“There has yet to be a renewed effort since,” Williams said. “The department has learned to be more strategic with the volunteer hours we currently have.”
Vogel, the former volunteer, said while he wholeheartedly supports the police department, he believes it can better utilize its volunteer resources.
He said paid staff phased him out of the department.
“The victim services unit that I was running wasn’t being used anymore,” Vogel explained. “The department had decided to use an outside resource, and frankly didn’t tell me about it.”
Vogel made the call to end his nearly decade-long tenure last August.
“They didn’t eliminate my job,” Vogel said. “I eliminated it myself because they weren’t using me for anything.”
Volunteers used to be another set of eyes and ears for the police, Vogel said.
Today, MPD is preparing to add two new public safety aides to its payroll, who will be tasked with just that.
“We used to help them out on issues that didn’t require a uniformed officer,” Vogel said. “We would go on victim services calls, and once the police took their reports and did everything they needed to do, we were able to cut them loose.”
Vogel and fellow volunteers helped victims access resources after a crime. But now, a bona fide officer is required to facilitate that process.
It seems the department is content downsizing its volunteer efforts. MPD said it intends not to make its remaining volunteers feel unneeded as Vogel did.
“We are beyond grateful for our volunteers and know their time is valuable,” Williams said. “We will continue using our due diligence to ensure their contributions are making an impactful difference in our department.”