PHOENIX – Not every 911 call ends in an arrest, and many times police officers find themselves wanting to help crime victims and others in need without official resources to do so.
“We step in and fill the gap when officers want to go above and beyond to help people in the community,” said Deborah Taylor, a board member of Angels on Patrol, which provides credit cards and other financial resources to first responders in situations where the law alone cannot help.
Domestic violence victims are among those who benefit. Angels on Patrol has provided funds for a hotel for the night, a meal or even a train ticket for those who need immediate help getting to a safer location.
“Sometimes they want transportation to get back home to maybe a different state where they are safe and they have family,” Taylor explained.
“We had a victim whose boyfriend had set her on fire in a domestic incident,” said Taylor, who has been a Phoenix police officer since 2000. “She spent months in burn-unit rehab as she was recovering, and the detective who was assigned to her case was following up with her. We learned that her glasses had been broken, and she had been using glasses that were just not functioning for her very well.”
Taylor said Angels on Patrol was able to step in and buy the victim a new pair of glasses with the correct prescription. “This case just resonated with me, because I wear glasses, and I can’t imagine if I didn’t have them for months or if they weren’t working right,” Taylor said.
Before Angels on Patrol, many officers wouldn’t have been able to support citizens after their legal responsibilities were complete, or they would have had to reach into their own pockets to help those in need.
The organization was started in 2009 after Phoenix Police Lt. Jacqui MacConnell responded to a call for “one of the most horrific abuse cases she had ever experienced in her career as a police officer,” according to the Angels on Patrol website.
“In about 2000, I went on an incident as a sergeant, and we received a call from some boys who were in cages,” MacConnell said, speaking at a September 2022 Phoenix City Council meeting. “Oftentimes, as an officer, you receive a call, and you think, ‘That is not what it will be like when I get there.’ Well, in this case it was.”
“Through that, and many more incidents I came across, I had the desire like many officers, to help these individuals that we come across during the course of our duties, to assist them further past that initial crisis,” said MacConnell, who now works for the Spokane Police Department but remains on the Angels on Patrol board of directors.
“I wanted to provide something that would provide an immediate response, not in a week and not in a day,” MacConnell added. “We help when an officer submits a request to us which is an easy process and it was designed with no red tape, an easy process that takes five to seven minutes.”
Only on-duty police officers can fill out an online request form. Forms take only minutes to fill in and are processed around the clock. If necessary, action can be taken without the form being fully approved so that officers have funds they need to provide emergency assistance to a victim.
So far, the nonprofit estimates it has helped more than 19,000 people in the community. And the aid that Angels on Patrol provides does not always look the same.
“We’re serving people in crisis, and crisis can look like many different things,” Demitria Griggs, board president of Angels on Patrol, said in an interview.
Angels on Patrol relies on grant funding and also hosts fundraising activities throughout the year, including a Dec. 8, 2023, golf tournament at Dobson Ranch in Mesa, where anyone can participate.
“You can get out there and golf, you can sponsor and you can donate,” Griggs said, adding the nonprofit would love to grow and extend its reach. “We have not expanded to other states, but that is a part of our plan for the future.”