One of the most rewarding things people can do is volunteer time in service to their community. The Arvada Police Department provides several opportunities for individuals to volunteer such as victim advocates and administrative support.
The newest volunteer opportunity with the Arvada Police Department is the Arvada Search Team (AST).
The idea of forming a search team began nearly a year ago. The Arvada Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAAA) formed a task force to look at ways the association could expand volunteer opportunities in Arvada.
This task force identified several ideas, the most promising of which was forming a search team. The idea was presented to the Arvada police command staff where it was warmly received.
The next step was to identify a staff person to lead this effort and coordinate team development, recruitment, and activities. Currently, all recruiting for the AST is through the CPAAA, and the team coordinator is the police department's Emergency Management Coordinator.
The purpose of the Arvada Search Team (AST) is to be available on short notice to assist Arvada police in systematic searches. Searches can include, but are not limited to, searching for missing people, specific objects, and evidence.
The on-duty police commander will determine the need for assistance and activate the team through police dispatch.
The AST is comprised of volunteers and its activities are supervised by Arvada Police staff. The area to be searched will be determined by the on-duty Commander and would include areas in the City of Arvada and possibly parts of unincorporated Jefferson County and neighboring jurisdictions.
The AST will not be used where a danger may exist for team members, for example; searches for fugitives, criminals or in areas where technical skills may be needed to access.
If rescue is warranted, specialized teams will be notified and all medical assistance would be provided by the local emergency medical system. The search team can be deployed outside of Arvada when requested as mutual aid and with permission from the Chief or designee.
AST activities are coordinated by the City of Arvada Police Department's Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC). The EMC is responsible for recruitment, selection of team members and leaders, training, evaluation, and retention of team members.
Search team volunteers initially received training in coordinated, systematic search techniques and team orientation. Training to date has included basic search patterns, identification of evidence, and working safely with search dogs.
Future training will include wide area search techniques and the Incident Command System. The team has conducted two practice drills to test activation, response times, and to practice skills learned in training.
In 2010, the AST logged more than 270 training and drill hours.
The Arvada Search Team is groundbreaking and novel. Although, there are more than a dozen Sheriff Department Search and Rescue Teams in Colorado composed of highly trained individuals and rescue technicians, this is the first volunteer search team composed of regular citizens donating their time and effort as more boots-on-the-ground for their local community police department.