Recession makes civilian police jobs frighteningly necessary

Two men in police uniforms are riding toy motorcycles down a sidewalk.

What might be coming if police budget cuts continue to gain traction. (Photo Credit: ThinkStock)

When police budget cuts and layoffs make responding to fraud, burglary and theft calls impossible, some cities count on an infusion of quick cash to turn the tide. However, as USA Today reports, police agencies on the other side of the tracks are resorting to unconventional measures to fill vacancies. Paid and volunteer civilian police jobs are cheaper to support and becoming increasingly common.

Civilian police jobs: not so well-paid, not so experienced

Thanks to the recession, civilian police jobs are taking Monday morning quarterbacks and turning them into crime-scene investigators, photographers and evidence gatherers, writes USA Today. Charges of undermining the professionalism of those who walk the thin blue line have peppered the offices of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), said Executive Director Bill Johnson. Even within the profession, there is controversy over some civilian police jobs that ignore standard pay and benefits negotiated for true police officers.

“The economy ought not to be pushing this,” said Johnson to USA Today. “You want the real deal when you call 911.”

Budget cuts and civilian police

In cities big and small, police budget cuts have made civilian law enforcement necessary. In San Francisco, for instance, 16 civilians were recently hired to investigate burglary and property crime through a $1 million program that would have cost significantly more if unionized police personnel had been retained to do the same jobs. Assistant Police Chief Thomas Shawyer told USA Today that the program saved the city $40,000 per person in training, gear and benefits. The police department in Mesa, Ariz., saved about $15,000 per person in salary by using eight civilian investigators starting in 2009. The civilian replacements whose charge was to investigate property crimes and fraud had previously worked in customer service at Costco, Barnes & Noble and Southwest Airlines.

Where it gets scary is Durham, N.C. Inexperienced civilian operatives are required to canvass neighborhoods following murders and other violent crimes. It puts needed eyes on the street to make up for officers lost due to police layoffs, but as Johnson puts it, “At that point of contact, we want a full-fledged police officer dealing with the public.”


USA Today

Johnny, get your gun

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