Photo of a police car.
Some cities are using more volunteer cops due to pay cuts. CC by cliff1066™/Flickr

Police budget cuts and layoffs have affected law enforcement’s ability to effectively respond to anything less than the most serious crimes. Without enough money to operate, many precincts are going unconventional to solve the problem, writes USA Today. It is not uncommon anymore to see volunteer and paid civilian police jobs out there, employing people to ideally serve the public in much the same way trained officers do.

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

USA Today reports that the recession has made it so civilian police jobs are making the average Joe a crime-scene investigator, photographer and evidence gatherer. 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

Budget cuts lead to civilian police

It has become more important to increase civilian law enforcement because police budgets are getting cut in most cities. 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. USA Today reports Thomas Shawyer, Assistant Police Chief, said that $40,000 per person a year was saved in training, gear and benefits with the program. Eight civilian investigators were hired by the Mesa, Ariz., police department in 2009. This has saved about $15,000 per person in salary. Working at Barnes & Noble, Costco and Southwest Airlines was what these civilians were doing before. And it does get worse. In Durham, N.C., inexperienced civilian operatives are required to canvass neighborhoods following murders and other violent crimes. Even though it may help make sure more people are helping with investigations now that police layoffs have happened, Johnson explains, “At that point of contact, we want a full-fledged police officer dealing with the public.”


USA Today:

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