Many police departments employ community service officers (CSOs), or non-sworn professionals who respond to non-emergent community issues such as traffic control, vandalism, special events, and report taking. CSOs typically are unarmed and, unlike police officers, rarely empowered to make arrests or use force.
The rationale for CSOs is straightforward: some community issues, needs, and calls for service require attention, but are unlikely to involve imminent threats of harm to individuals. Professionals with appropriate training and expertise can address these issues as effectively – or more effectively – than armed police officers.
In addition to expanding and diversifying a jurisdiction’s response options, CSOs also can help free up the time and attention of sworn officers so that they can focus more intently on core responsibilities related to physical safety.
The following are examples of CSO models.
Some municipalities are considering an expansion of CSO duties to encompass safety issues that are more emergent. For example, in July 2021 Seattle announced that it was working to specialize its triage system to dispatch CSOs to welfare checks that are unrelated to criminal or legal concerns.1
If CSOs are already operating within your public safety system, consider examining their current responsibilities and evaluating the feasibility of adding additional call types to their duties.