Privatizing Some Aspects of Policing

USA Today has a long article here:

Civilians handle minor duties for strapped police
Departments under budget burdens hire outside help
By Alan Gomez
Page 3A

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. . . .

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Blogger Andrew said...

I'm not thrilled with USA Today's use of "civilians" to denote non-sworn personnel. Police officers are citizens, just like the rest of us.

That said, the practice is a good one: Taking reports, answering phones, and other administrative tasks should be done by clerks, not officers.

-Andrew Rothman

3/31/2008 3:11 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Oh, and "privatizing" is probably not the right term. The clerks are still direct employees of the departments, not freelancers or contract help from private firms.

3/31/2008 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Quoted from Robert Peel's principals of policing

4/01/2008 3:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is a big problem with "citizen volunteers" taking complaints at the front desk of any police station. They don't have the objectivity of a regular officer and they are not subject tothe same demands of professionalism that go with a paycheck. Crime reporting tends to drop in those communities, enable them to claim the crime rate is going down.

On the other hand, activist organizations like PJFI.org and some others, who wear their agenda on their sleeve, can do a good job of assisting police investigations. obscenitycrimes.org is another one, and that one is linked from the DOJ.GOV site, a trend in privatization?

Mixed feelings about that, here.

4/02/2008 4:31 AM  

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