Page 11 Wednesday, February 3, 2021 HOMETOWN HEROES | Guthrie News Leader SUB YOUR SIDE FOR $2 LIMITED TIME ONLY WITH FAMILY MASHED POTATOES I I I fried, Roasted or half & half , By Jake Holley Guthrie News Leader: What volunteer work, fundraising or community involvement does the Guthrie Police Department participate in? Don Sweger: Our largest endeavor is raising money for our Christmas with Cops campaign. The money we raise allows us to take children, identified by both our department and other community organizations, shopping just before the Christmas holiday. Unfortunately, the need is always great in our community. GNL: Do you have any specific people who are particularly active? Sweger: Most of our members actively assist in raising money for this event. It is so very near and dear to our hearts. GNL: What do you think some of the benefits are to staying involved and active in the community? Sweger: United States police agencies were first formed with the following principal at the forefront: “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” (Sir Robert Peel) The more positive engagements we have within the community, the more legitimacy our organization receives from the citizens. Police in the United States is done solely with the consent of its citizens. Without this legitimacy, police personnel are powerless to perform any of their proscribed duties. GNL: Why is staying involved in the community important for the Guthrie Police Department? Sweger: It is vitally important to stay deeply rooted in the community so that we are constantly aware of the community values that are ever present, and often changing. Too many departments become aloof or disgruntled, with an “us against them” attitude that removes them from the realities of the communities that they serve. This divide can only spell tragedy for both the department and its citizens. Staying involved, active and observable allows us to best serve the needs of our community, and makes us ever more approachable by those in need. GNL: What is your favorite part about serving Guthrie? Sweger: Our favorite part of serving Guthrie is watching how well the time and effort improves our timely response to the actual needs and wants of the citizens. Without close ties to the community and its values, we lose our ability to be nimble and swift in our responses. We become slow, sluggish and out of touch. A public service entity must always strive for perfection in its servitude. Failure to strive towards this loft goal means that we have failed those who have placed their trust in us. This is unforgivable. Hometown Heroes Guthrie Police Department The Guthrie Police Department Victims Advocate Program began in 2015 after Officer Michael Johns noticed the amount of domestic violence calls he received while on shift. One day at work, a woman came into the lobby and asked to speak to the “domestic violence cop” and Johns realized she was talking about him. “It was brought to the attention of the chief that there’s this program you can apply for and receive a grant to have a victim advocate within the police department to help people after law enforcement has been on the scene,” Johns said. “We read through it all and chief thought I’d probably be a really good fit for this and we filled out all the paperwork, applied and we got it.” Funded through the grant program VOCA, Victims of Crime Act, money is generated through the criminal justice system when people pay fines and one of those fines is the VOCA. That money goes into a federal pot that is then distributed to each state and each year that money is awarded to different programs that apply for the grant. Close to 180 programs in Oklahoma are funded through VOCA, such as Logan Community Services and Wings of Hope in Stillwater. Guthrie Victims Advocate Program helps serve Logan County ADVOCATE » PAGE 13