Police chief, council congratulates VIPS for their dedication to serving community

BUCKHANNON – About half the events the Volunteers in Police Service typically assist the Buckhannon Police Department with were canceled for pandemic-related reasons in 2020, the group’s coordinator said Thursday.

Nonetheless, they remained, as ever, an invaluable asset to the Buckhannon Police Department and community at large, VIPS coordinator Steve Wykoff and Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory said.

Gregory and Wykoff appeared via video conference from the Public Safety Complex at Thursday’s Buckhannon City Council meeting to conduct a recognition and appreciation ceremony for the city’s 15 VIPS members. Dialed into council chambers, Wykoff and Gregory recognized members of the VIPS, which is a volunteer wing of the BPD that typically assists with crowd control, traffic control, administrative tasks and more.

Prior to recognizing VIPS members, Wykoff delivered the 2020 Annual Report, saying 63 events which VIPS members had planned to work were canceled. The organization – which gained three members in 2020 to take its total up to 15 – was able to assist with just 78 events in 2020, compared to the typical 120-130.

“Twenty-seven of the 78 events we attended were public health-related events, such as free testing drive-thrus,” Wykoff reported. “We put in 1,515 hours – which is about half of what we did in 2019, but that’s still a lot of officers [the police department was able] to send to other situations during those times that we were on duty, potentially saving the city on extra overtime that would have had to be paid to those officers.”

Wykoff honored six members who had earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award with a certificate and pin. The distinguished award is based on a threshold of volunteer hours worked and honorees included Wykoff (396.5 hours), Jewel Fisher (143 hours), David Rowan (156 hours), Evelyn Syski (196.5 hours), Vito Syski (213.5) and Andi Cartier (141 hours).

Those six members and other members – including Anita Coleman, Scott Coleman, Linda Coleman, Paul Coleman, Joe Dillon, Allen Nash, Sydney McDonald, Morgan Cox and Brittney Wood – all received certificates of appreciation from the City of Buckhannon.

Gregory said he is continuously grateful for the VIPS members’ service.

“On behalf of myself and every officer in the Buckhannon Police Department, I would like to send a heartfelt thank-you,” the police chief said. “I say this repeatedly, but you all are an invaluable asset, not just to the police department but to the entire community. You truly go above and beyond in everything that you so freely give.”

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner concurred.

“There are many events that our community has in a non-COVID year that we definitely could not successfully pull off without the dedicated members of the VIPS,” Skinner said. “We appreciate everything that they do for us, and I think it’s important every year that we make sure that we pause to make sure we recognize their service here in the community and their assistance to you as the police department, so thank you to everyone who’s involved with the VIPS.”

Read more about the VIPS program and its members here.

In other Buckhannon Police Department-related news, Gregory reported that the city’s newest probationary police officer hire, James Fisher, was invited to begin his 10-week training at the West Virginia State Police Academy Jan. 15, 2021.

Gregory said he was thrilled at the news, having been worried that the new officer might not be able to start training until spring due to a backlog of candidates due to COVID-19.

“This is great news,” the police chief said. “He stays there for 10 weeks – stays in what’s called ‘the bubble’ – and then the training concludes at the beginning of April. Then, he will undergo 12 weeks of field training with the police department.”

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