Gulfport Police Launch Citizen Corps Council

The Gulfport Police Department is recruiting volunteers to help during disasters. It's a new program called "The Citizens Corps Council".

After the terrorist attacks on nine eleven, President Bush created several federal programs encouraging citizen involvement and volunteerism in the event of a future crisis. Police, fire and emergency medical services throughout Harrison County will use this new council to find and train community volunteers.

Police, fire and EMT's must communicate and cooperate during a crisis. The new "Citizens Corps Council" will give volunteers the opportunity and training to assist the first responders during disasters.

"This provides them that outlet. We can identify those skills that they have before we have a disaster. And then we can call on them in the event that we need them," said Gulfport police chief, Steve Barnes.

"Convince people that they can make a difference," said  the Rev. Nathaniel Jeanpierre, as he walked through Olivet subdivision.

He believes in the benefits of volunteerism and has organized several community watch programs.

"It makes a big difference when people volunteer. Because when the people volunteer, then the police department works hand in hand with them. It's like anything else. They see somebody trying to do something for themself, they help them," he explained.

Police officer Monica White is convinced community volunteers can strengthen neighborhoods and help emergency services during disasters.

"People always want to help. And they just never know how. And it's so important that people feel like they're involved in their community," officer White said.

Emergency services leaders voiced support for the new program at a police department news conference.

"We're all going to benefit from it. Because we're going to be able to organize these volunteers that come forth that have said, yes, here's an organization I can work with, I can believe in that's going to direct us," said fire chief, Pat Sullivan.

A volunteer recruitment campaign is coming soon.

The Citizens Corps Council will organize and oversee volunteers in several different areas. Those areas include a medical reserve corps, an expanded neighborhood watch program and a community based emergency response team.

Anyone interested in volunteering should phone the Gulfport Police Department at 868-5703.