A long-planned program that will send unarmed civilians to some police calls for service is finally launching after the Long Beach Police Department said Thursday it’s hired its first class of community service assistants.
The CSA program was proposed in 2020 after civil unrest over the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The Police Department made cuts elsewhere in its budget to allow for the 16 positions, which are expected to respond to non-violent “Priority 3” calls.
The department said last year that there are 36 types of calls the CSAs can respond to, which typically would include incidents that need police reports filed, like burglaries, driveway blocking, non-injury traffic collisions and graffiti.
They will not be armed or drive around the city in black-and-white police vehicles. LBPD officers would still respond to other calls regarding violent crimes, but the department believes the program will result in faster responses for less serious crimes.
“The addition of CSAs to our department is one of many ways in which we are modernizing how we provide police services in our city,” LBPD Chief Wally Hebeish said in a statement.
Hebeish said that the CSAs will allow sworn officers to focus on higher-priority calls and engage with the community.
Before heading into the field, the new CSAs will have to complete 120 hours of classroom training on how to respond to calls. The department previously said the CSAs would carry pepper gel, but no gun.
They will also wear grey polo shirts instead of the uniforms officers wear in the field and drive white city vehicles with city seals on them.
Allison Gallagher, a spokesperson for the department, said that the CSAs are expected to start a three-month-long field training program sometime in mid-June.
Adding civilians into the mix could lessen the strain on the department that early this year instituted mandatory overtime for all of its sworn officers because of low staffing levels.
In February, the department made public a policy that had already been implemented that required all sworn members of the department to work one overtime shift per month.
It’s expected that it could last through the end of the year as the department works to hire more officers to fill dozens of vacancies.