Terry Lee may not be a police officer, but he’s in a role that puts him as close as humanly possible to being one.
Lee, 71, is one of about 33 citizen volunteers in the Puyallup Police Department’s Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program, which started in 2005 and is sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Last month the Puyallup Police Department recognized Lee with its 2016 Volunteer of the Year award at the annual VIPS barbecue in Puyallup’s DeCoursey Park.
“Terry is very personable,” said Lisa Isaacs, the department’s crime prevention coordinator. “He is very calming. Some of our volunteers who are unsure — he has done a great job of training them and showing them the process, and simplifying things for them. He has a lot of foresight to see the big picture.”
33 number of citizen volunteers in the Puyallup Police Department’s Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program
Lee said for him it’s all about community relations.
“I go on patrol three days a week for six hours (at a time) with another volunteer, where we are the eyes and ears for the police,” Lee explained. “It’s a team effort with two of us in the car. We call it in, the police will respond. We don’t get involved when the police get here.”
Lee grew up in the small town of La Habra, in Southern California, where his father served as mayor.
“I had a close relationship with the fire and the police,” Lee reminisced. “We were all in one building. We were almost raised in the department.”
Lee, whose daughter now works in law enforcement, said he never wanted to be a police officer, but that he likes helping the police.
I love the town. I love the police station. And my wife wanted me out of the house.
Terry Lee, Puyallup Police Department’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year
“I managed a trucking company and moved up in here in 1984 from Southern California. We’ve lived in Puyallup for 12 years,” he said. “I’ve been volunteering for about a year and a half. When I retired I made it something to do; I wanted to give back to the community. I love the town. I love the police station. And my wife wanted me out of the house.”
Lee’s background in trucking company management was a real asset to VIPS when he came on board, Isaacs said.
“We were really trying to get our Citizen’s Patrol and disabled parking enforcement patrol going and he really jumped in and went ahead and managed (the two),” Isaacs said. “We worked on the education flyer (for the disabled parking enforcement) and he started to hang them on cars. (Lee) looks ahead at ways to help resolve issues without having the need to penalize people first. He sees the education element as really important. Education enforcement is a goal of the department.”
Lee is a valuable asset to the Puyallup Police Department, Capt. Scott Engle said.
“He is an extremely good ambassador for the department and for our community,” Engle said. “He spends a lot of time keeping our city safe by helping with a lot of programs.”
Volunteers help in all facets for the department, including staffing the department’s information desk, working disabled parking enforcement, patrolling the streets, managing radar trailer deployments, assisting police staff in the jail, and assisting in coordinating special events where needed.
Those interested in becoming a volunteer in the VIPS program need not be a Puyallup resident. All applicants fill out a detailed application and go through a thorough background check and interview process.
“We have a great bunch of people,” Lee said. “It’s a big honor to receive the award.”
For more information about VIPS, or to join, call 253-841-5531 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.