With all the fun events in Petaluma this summer, you’re sure to see some of the Petaluma Police Department volunteers in action. Wearing long-sleeved white shirts and PPD shoulder patches, they stand out in a crowd. Since 2015, the force of over 60 volunteers have been trained and coordinated by Jennifer Parsons-Pritchard.
Born in Buffalo, NY, Jennifer is a Petaluma High graduate who has lived here since the sixth grade. She now lives on 2-1/2 acres west of town with her husband, teen daughter and son, two horses, dogs, goats, and cats, plus a handful of chickens.
“We love this town,” Jennifer says, “and I doubly appreciate having a job where I feel purposeful every day.”
Working directly under Sergeant Marty Frye, Jennifer has used her SSU Masters in Education expertise since day-one.
“My position is underwritten by funding from the Graton Casino,” she explains, “and I am tasked with creating educational outreach programs for the community at large, as well as curriculums targeted for the diverse set of volunteer jobs.”
Underlying everything Jennifer does is the PPD’s policing model of being Conscientious, Present, Collaborative and Professional.
“I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to have City Hall, the PPD, and Petaluma residents behind us,” she says.
Jennifer’s work schedule is a busy one. She estimates that she receives at least 30 e-mails every day, from the Police Chief on down through the sergeants, dispatchers, code enforcement officers and more. The bulk of her work is pairing volunteers with projects and assignments they’d be a good fit for. Those assignments are made based on each volunteer’s interests and training.
“My goal is to take their passion and skill-set and integrate this with problem solving and the objectives of the department,” she says. “If they are happy doing what they do, we can capitalize on their strong points.”
Some volunteers work in the Police Department building, doing records and data entry, or compiling educational materials like the PPD’s domestic violence and bicycle safety packets. Others assist with parade and pedestrian safety, staffing the booths at public events, making classroom education visits, doing mobile-home-park-patrols and assisting with DUI patrols and code enforcement calls.
Code enforcement calls are triggered by a citizen’s complaint, but as Jennifer points out to her volunteers, code enforcement provides a snapshot of larger issues.
“The volunteer and the officer have a legitimate reason for being at or in a specific place,” she explains, “and this provides the opportunity to observe and record potential issues at that location which may need law-enforcement follow-up.”
Jennifer goes on to remind us, “Society wants law enforcement to be open-minded and objective and break down barriers, but the public often doesn’t reciprocate.”
Jennifer wants people to know she has a life outside of the Police Department.
“I run at Shollenberger Park and Doran Beach for half-marathons, as far away as Utah, and am on the board of the SoCo Girls On the Run group, because I know athleticism builds strong, autonomous young women.”
She also loves to travel, and fairly bubbles with excitement as she shares that, when she was younger, she dyed her blonde hair dark.
“To fit in better,” she says, describing her visits to places like Thailand, Southern Spain, and Turkey.
What advice can you give our readers?
“Check out the PPD Citizen Academy,” Jennifer says. “It offers a unique insider’s look at police operations and the chance to interact with police personnel in a series of Wednesday night meetings and a Saturday class at the regional police academy in Windsor.”