Shenandoah City Council members are considering the implementation of a first responder emergency relief fund after hearing a presentation on the matter during a June 12 meeting.
The presentation from police officer Rick Zoerb of Charlotte, North Carolina, detailed a fund he established within his department in 2014 that provides assistance to locals within his community.
“When I was on patrol, I discovered community needs that there weren’t any funds to handle,” Zoerb said. “For example, if [somebody’s] car was broken down and they didn’t have a place to stay for the night … there weren’t any resources, and it was frustrating as an officer. We’re supposed to be a solution.”
Zoerb said the fund he created is available for officers to use and is accessible through a city credit card. To access the funds, officers first have to go through either himself or an officer ranking sergeant or higher to determine if the funds can be used.
In Charlotte, the fund is privately funded through tax-deductible donations.
“Most of the time, it is local businesses donating to the police department or the city to be able to use,” Zoerb said. “It doesn’t require a lot of funds. In three and a half years, we’ve never had a negative response from anybody. The way it has worked, I call a few businesses in January and we receive enough funding to last the whole year.”
In the case of larger purchases, Zoerb said the department will ask for community donations.
Zoerb said the emergency need fund has been well-received in Charlotte and he said he believes it could be beneficial to Shenandoah as well.
Shenandoah Mayor Ritch Wheeler said he could see a similar fund used in the city in the event of a flood or hurricane to help residents and people traveling through the city.
“We have 400,000 people traveling through Shenandoah every day on I-45, and you think about how many times our police officers come into contact with somebody that could be in a situation where they could help them,” Wheeler said. “It could be great if they had the ability to do that, build a relationship in a positive light, and they might be willing to do it more often if it’s not out of their own pocket.
“What if we’re just the first? That’s really what I like to think about … how great would it be if we could start something like this with a good track record, and the county jumps on board?”
No action was taken as of publication June 13.