Neighborhood Patrol program bids
farewell to founder, seeks new volunteers

By Carina Romano on July 17, 2017

Inspired by his service in the military police and post-military law enforcement, Concord resident Doug Schuster saw a need for a corps of volunteers to bring more police presence to the community. Now, finally retiring in earnest, Schuster is hoping his experience will encourage others to step up and volunteer for Neighborhood Patrol. (Photo by Tamara Steiner)

They are the friendly faces in uniform you see walking through the park, stopping to say hello and making you feel a little bit safer.

They are the volunteers who are more than happy to watch over your house while you are on vacation, keeping an eye out for suspicious activity so that you can relax on the beach with peace of mind.

And they are the ones who drive through your neighborhood in black and white volunteer patrol cars, helping to keep our community safe.

They are the Concord Police Department’s Neighborhood Patrol.

The Neighborhood Patrol is a volunteer program that assists officers with critical tasks in order to help the police department function and keep Concord a safe place to live. The program was put into effect 20 years ago through the efforts of Doug Schuster, a Concord resident who has volunteered with the police department since he moved to Concord in 1995.

Schuster led the patrol for almost 20 years before retiring on July 1. In total, Schuster has been involved in law enforcement for more than 63 years.

Taking a cue from the military

The idea for the Neighborhood Patrol came from Schuster’s 22 years of service in the U.S. military. He joined the Army in 1948 at the age of 17 and was assigned to the military police. His duties included patrolling civilian neighborhoods and providing necessary services to those who lived there. He remained in the military police for the entirety of his service, retiring as a highly decorated major in 1970.

Schuster enjoyed two other careers in law enforcement before his arrival in Concord, spending four years with Burns International in San Francisco and then 20 years with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Retiring from the NRC in 1995, Schuster moved to Concord. In May of that year, he became a volunteer with the Concord Police Department.

“I was somewhat of an unusual volunteer in that I had some 40 years of police ­investigative experience,” says Schuster.

In looking for something to do after retirement, he thought he had the most to offer the Concord PD. “I wanted to do something meaningful,” he notes.

Soon after becoming a volunteer, Schuster broached the idea of a neighborhood patrol to his supervisors. His military patrol experiences were a big influence in this decision. Given the green light, Schuster visited seven police departments to gather ideas on patrol programs.

“I knew that other departments, in bits and pieces, could have some of the ingredients that would be necessary,” Schuster explains. “I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

In-depth training program

Once he gathered enough information, he and all involved got to work on the patrol’s design. The program went through several drafts before its approval, and the official Concord PD Neighborhood Patrol was launched on June 20, 1997.

At the start, the patrol had 11 dedicated volunteers. “We are citizens helping citizens” is the phrase Schuster uses to describe the patrol – stressing that these volunteers are not police officers. He explains that the program is a link between the police and the residents of Concord, helping the police department become more accessible to the community.

Upon selection, the first 11 volunteers had to complete 40 hours of training at academy classes. Today, that time has tripled to 130 hours. Volunteers learn how to be an additional set of “eyes and ears” for the department, as well as how to operate a police vehicle, perform first aid and CPR and much more related to their own safety and that of the community.

In pairs, patrol volunteers keep an eye on the community by taking to the streets in black and white vehicles, with Volunteers in Police Services printed on the sides.

“I feel it’s really giving back,” says Steve Glazier, a patrol volunteer of four years. “What we do keeps an officer from having to do it.”

According to Schuster, the main goal of the Neighborhood Patrol is to not only offer service to the community but to help the police department as well. The patrol performs vital jobs within the department and the community that allow official officers to focus on other tasks. These important jobs include everything from bringing case reports to the district attorney’s office to responding in a citywide emergency. The mere presence of patrol volunteers is a deterrent for crime, Schuster notes.

A need for new volunteers

Since the patrol began, there has been an obvious difference within the community. “I’m seeing more and more waves,” Schuster says, referring to the community’s response to the patrol.
Glazier agrees. “A lot of times, we’ll be driving through an area and people will wave just to say ‘Thank you. Thank you for what you do.’ ”

After 20 years, the Neighborhood Patrol has become a necessary and valued part of the Concord PD. “We’ve made so much progress because of Doug and his tenacity and his leadership,” says volunteer manager Margaret Romiti, who oversees the department’s 60-plus volunteer programs. “We’ve made so much progress that now this program is a part of our agency.”

The Neighborhood Patrol is actively looking for new volunteers to help keep the community safe. “It’s a fun experience, it’s a needed experience,” promises Schuster, “and I can’t think of a better way to serve the community.”

Though Schuster is retired from the patrol, he still plans on being present within the PD as a consultant as well as to assist with training new volunteers.

To find out more about joining the Neighborhood Patrol, contact Romiti at 925.671.3184.

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