Citizens depend on their police officers for safety. That's often more than fighting bad folks.
Sometimes it can be something as simple as helping someone find his or her way home.
"I remember getting some panicky calls when I was on patrol. Things like, 'My mother has walked away from a store and she has dementia,' " said Paul Tumlin, Weatherford Police Department community services officer. "I wanted to do something to help patrol when situations like this come up, and they come up more often than you'd think."
That's why Tumlin's started the Return Home Safe Program. It reduces the amount of time first responders take to find someone who has wandered off and is lost.
The program, believed to be unique to Weatherford, provides officers with information the department has on file, such as a person's physical attributes, interests, frequented locations, the vehicle he drives and a recent photo. It does require registering with the police department.
"A little boy likes to walk off into the business district without his parents knowing," Tumlin said. "Now we will have it in our system where he likes to go and we know to immediately start looking there."
Tumlin said that while the program is already in place, it's official unveiling will be at the upcoming Peach Festival on July 14. He also said that while folks can come to the police station to register, officers will come to homes to assist people in getting signed up.
"We can have the information relayed in five to seven minutes and have officers out there looking immediately, instead of about 30 minutes," Tumlin said. "People can go a long way in a short amount of time."
Weatherford Police Chief Lance Arnold identified the two most vulnerable groups of citizens as seniors and children, adding that they are also the ones who will benefit most from this program. In fact, he said around 17 percent of the Weatherford population is age 65 or older.
"That's a significant number of people when you think about it. Anything we can do to help these groups is very important," Arnold said.
Arnold recalled a case in August when a woman wandered from home. Ot took an hour and a half to find her, even though she had only gone a few blocks away.
"That gave us a strong reminder that we can do more and now we are," he said.
Tumlin said the program takes on even more importance given the intensity of Texas summers.
"If someone is out in this Texas heat it is imperative we find them fast," he said. "Some of these people do not have the proper attire, sometimes not even shoes."
The program will also allow officers to know certain things about those for whom they are searching. For example, if someone with autism has a fear of lights, the officers will know not to shine a flashlight on them.
"Our mission is to enrich our community, and that takes on a much bigger scope than just law enforcement," Arnold said.
"This is for anyone with a family member who can get lost, it's really that simple," Tumlin said. "That can be very scary, and very dangerous. This is just something to help make life safer for those folks."
For more information on the Return Home Safe Program, contact Tumlin at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 682-229-2612.