The Citizens Auxiliary Police Services, also known as CAPS, is made up of volunteers from the community who help the police department in a number of ways. And for three longtime members of the organization, they have collectively dedicated more than four decades of service to the department.
Retiring earlier this summer, CAPS members Carole Pelchat, Sonya Schali and Bev Hay were each recognized with a plaque of appreciation as they ended their tenure with the Oakdale Police Department. Pelchat served 17 years, from 2005 to 2022; Schali for 14 years, 2008 to 2022; and Hay for 13 years, 2099 to 2022.
Some common jobs for the CAPS members are blocking off roads for parades and rodeos, directing traffic, visiting seniors at the senior center, taking documents to the District Attorney’s Office, and sometimes assisting with traffic control at accidents.
“What I enjoyed most was getting together with the other volunteers and doing everything together,” Schali stated. “I hope that the program continues on.”
The program in Oakdale has been around for at least 30 years, continuing to provide assistance to the officers where needed to free up some of their time while they do their normal daily duties. Hay explained how more than $200,000 worth of man hours has been saved with the help of CAPS.
“I really retired with mixed feelings, I loved doing CAPS and I’ll miss every part of it; like how I’ve gotten the opportunity to know my community better,” Hay expressed.
Retirees agreed that once you are a part of CAPS, you are presented with a handful of unique and challenging tasks that require teamwork from your fellow volunteers.
CAPS handle home security checks when people are gone on vacation, patrol events such as the downtown Farmer’s Market, provide perimeter security for major incident scenes, along with offering internal support of daily police operations.
“It was a lot of fun, a very fun group of people,” Pelchat stated. “I think it’s a good idea for anyone interested in CAPS to join.”
The youngest age of a CAPS volunteer in Oakdale is 12 while there is virtually no upper age limit, as some volunteers have continued to serve into their 80s.
Every month the group meets at the OPD office where they have their own area for CAPS volunteers and they go over the schedule and the report from the chief of police about important things going on in the community. From there, they determine a schedule and the areas they will focus on to assist the department, but also stay available for on the scene jobs.
Many of the CAPS members got to do ride-alongs with officers and also learned more about the intricacies of detective work.
“About eight years ago there was a kidnapping near the high school and we got to go door to door interviewing suspects; it was like we became a detective for the day,” Hay stated.
Currently the group is down to about 12 people but has had as many as 25 volunteers.
When someone joins CAPS, they receive training to ensure they feel comfortable enough to go out on assignments, especially with traffic control and radio work.
“We hope that people check CAPS out, it is a wonderful way to get to know your community and just stay in the know of everything that goes on,” Hay summarized.
To obtain more information on joining CAPS, call the Oakdale Police Department at 209-847-2231.