Monday, March 31, 2008

'Civilians' handle minor duties for strapped police

"Facing tighter budgets, law enforcement agencies across the country are increasingly turning to civilians to respond to some calls that sworn officers and deputies are usually responsible for.

That means people calling 911 to report a traffic accident, a burglarized home or a stolen car may be greeted by a civilian in a polo shirt instead of a gun-toting officer.

"It hasn't been universally adopted throughout the country. But most areas have at least thought about the alternative and are more open to it now because of the economy," said Richard Brady, president of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Matrix Consulting Group that has worked with more than 250 law enforcement agencies.

The idea of using civilians, who require less training and are less expensive than sworn officers, to respond to minor police calls has been around since the late 1980s.

Brady said the practice died off for years as the economy improved and departments were augmented after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

As the economy slows again and state and local governments face major cuts, many have turned back to the old practice. Among them:

•The Orange County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office plans to hire 18 civilian "field service officers" in the coming months.

•The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department hopes to add a dozen civilian report takers.

•The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will resume hiring for its civilian officer program this summer, hoping to add five.

Now before anything else, lets have a look see at the term "civilian". Shall we.

Are the police saying that they are not civilians?

Has the desire to become a member of the armed forces become so overwhelming as to divorce members of law enforcement from thinking of themselves as, well, civilians?

So then, on to the meat of the matter;they need airplanes and helicopters and "ASSAULT WEAPONS" and SWAT Teams and UNDERCOVER SUPER-DRUG-INVESTIGATING teams, and secret decoder rings for all I know, but are cash strapped for answering 911 calls?

Something tells me there has to be a SERIOUS attempt at correcting this problem.

Call it a 6th sense.

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