SARASOTA, Fla. - In 2013, civilian volunteers with the Sarasota Police Department worked more than 17,000 hours. Now the administration is requiring volunteers to sign a waiver releasing the city from any liability. Some of the volunteers are not happy and have resigned.
Sarasota Police civilian volunteers do many jobs for the police department, including street patrols and issuing parking tickets. "The chief and our administration love our volunteers. They are a huge asset to our department. We want them working," says Sarasota Police spokesperson Genevieve Judge.
A recent leadership change in the volunteer department is now requiring volunteers to sign a waiver of liability, giving up their right to sue the city. The waiver says volunteering in police work can be dangerous and by signing the release the volunteer assumes all the risks.
"Day one, the wavier is not an issue for me. I don't believe the city of Sarasota or the SPD are trying to lay off any kind of liability on volunteers." Don Herklotz has been a volunteer since 2010 and doesn't believe he is giving up any of his rights.
But others are not so sure.
"We know of at least three that put in writing that said because of the waiver we would like to leave the volunteer program," says Judge.
"That is different from my figures," says volunteer Gem Scheb. "I counted 17 on the list who have resigned, and I believe more on the list have resigned since that time."
Scheb has not yet decided whether or not he will sign the release. "There probably are some issues in there that will put total responsibility on the volunteer for all his actions and may even cause a liability on the part of the volunteer towards the police department."
But the Sarasota Police Departments position is that the waiver will help protect the volunteers while they are working. "This waiver is basically going to offer them any services that would be offered to a police officer," says Judge.
The volunteers were given several days to decide if they want to sign the waiver or not. If they don't sign the waiver, they won’t be able to serve as volunteers with the police department.