Under a gray-blue sky streaked with pale yellow, Wilkie Liang lowers an American Flag in front of the Hall of Justice on Freeport Boulevard. He quietly walks through an empty parking lot before sunset. He reverently folds the flag into a triangle and places it securely in a drawer. Liang takes on many duties as a Volunteer in Police Service. His most sentimental contribution is making sure the flag flies on weekends and holidays, when the police and fire headquarters are closed.
Liang is a Vietnam veteran who served with the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He's known men who died in war. "You could say it's a personal thing," Liang says. "There's a purpose and a meaning behind raising and lowering the flag. It's because of respect and honor for the veterans. It's remembering them for their sacrifice."
Liang retired from the State of California Department of Justice in 2004. He served with the state for 42 years and in the Air Force Reserves for 33 years. In 2005 he began volunteering the Sacramento Police Department Volunteer in Police Service (VIPS). Since then he has served in a long list of activities. He volunteers at DUI checkpoints, represents the Police Department at a variety of events such as runs to benefit charity and parades, participates in fundraisers, helps with finger-printing kids, mans the public counter at the Hall of Justice and much more. He has also helped patrol the community, assisting people in need and reporting crime that he observes. "We're eyes and ears," he said. Just the extra presence of police volunteers can be a deterrent for crime.
For Liang, volunteering with VIPS was a natural choice because of his military background. The environment of the Police Department and chain of command is familiar to him. "It a way of making a difference and giving back to the community," Liang says.
Liang is also concerned about the budget cuts that the Police Department has suffered and wants to help alleviate their workload. According to Police spokesman Officer Doug Morse, from 2008 to 2012 the police budget has been reduced by 31 percent. In that time there has been a 19 percent reduction in sworn staff and 44 percent reduction in civilian staff. "This is why volunteers are so important," Morse says. Volunteers help keep important community programs running. "They keep officers on the streets to perform their assigned duties."
"Law enforcement is a job you do because it's in your heart and you believe in it," Morse says. "(Liang) is very passionate about being a part of the Sac PD family, just like all the volunteers are."
Liang has volunteered 772 hours to VIPS. His extensive contribution has earned him the recognition as the Volunteer of the Year. The award will be presented to him during a luncheon and ceremony on May 23rd.
Do you know someone who has volunteered significant time and effort to a cause? Please email your suggestions for the I Care column to Autumn Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.