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Pasadena police train volunteers to be on ‘Parade Watch’

Last week, Pasadena resident John Kendall donned a Santa suit and delivered toys to needy families.

This week, he has a new outfit and a new position -- as a volunteer with the Pasadena Police Department’s “Parade Watch” program.

Wearing a cap and a bright-yellow jacket bearing the words “Pasadena Police Volunteer,” Kendall is traveling the parade route and reaching out to RV and motor home drivers lining the streets around Colorado Boulevard.

He and roughly 50 other volunteers are asking the drivers to pay attention to their surroundings and to call police if they see anything suspicious. The program began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to enhance security during the Rose Parade, said Janet Pope Givens, a police spokeswoman.

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“It’s like a Neighborhood Watch,” she said. “We just ask people to keep an eye on each other.”

On Tuesday afternoon, a handful of volunteers gathered at the Police Department for a briefing about the program and their duties. “Welcome to Parade Watch 2010,” said volunteer Bert Tibbet.

He instructed the group to introduce themselves as canvassers rather than inspectors, and told them not to go inside the motor homes. If a driver refuses to fill out a form with their name and address or to post a Parade Watch sticker on their vehicle, the volunteers are told to back off and call the parade desk.

“We have a perfect safety record for the past eight years,” said Tibbet, who monitors the phones back at police headquarters. “So when you’re out there, be alert, be aware and avoid dangerous circumstances.”

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And if volunteers are invited to a barbecue, he said, they should feel free to accept. “But remember, the task at hand is the most important thing.”

Shortly after 2 p.m., Kendall and two other volunteers headed to the brown zone -- at the east end of the parade route. They drove a police car with flashing yellow lights and carried radios, clipboards, stickers and forms.

At the first stop, on Oak Street, Kendall patted his mustache and walked up to the first motor home. The driver hopped out, smiled and spread out his arms.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” said Doug Lech of Oklahoma, who said he has been coming to the parade for eight years. “How you doing?”

Kendall shook his hand and welcomed him back to Pasadena. Patrick Ward, 32, gave Lech the sticker to post on his windshield and a form agreeing that his vehicle could be searched.

“Thank you guys,” said Lech, who arrived Monday. “We’re going to have a great time again.”

“We hope so,” Kendall said as he walked across the street to the next vehicle.

Kendall, 81, was born and raised in Pasadena used to attend the parade in a red wagon pulled by his parents. He only remembers missing one parade in his life -- 12 years ago, after he had a heart attack. Now he has three children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren, and he said they are all fans of the parade too.

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About five years ago, Kendall decided to become a volunteer with the department. He attended five months of training, learning how to operate police radios, control traffic and perform first aid.

Already this year, Kendall estimates that he has put in more than 1,000 hours. “I’ve got nothing else to do,” he said jokingly. “You can only watch so much ‘Price is Right.’ ”

Ward also started volunteering about five years ago. The computer software engineer said he was officially at work on Tuesday: “I’m on call.”

Ward said he has attended the parade every year and likes volunteering because it improves the quality of life in Pasadena. But really, he said, “I like hanging out with John. That’s the real reason.”

anna.gorman@latimes.com


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