A Different Shade of Blue: an Evaluation of the Civilian Detective Concept and Its Impact on Police Capabilities

Financial distress and shrinking police candidate pools have diminished cities’ abilities to protect the public. In this Viewpoints video, David Green, Lieutenant for the San Bernardino Police Department, discusses his CHDS Master’s thesis, which examines the manner in which cities have adapted by using civilians to perform the duties of sworn detectives.  Specifically, he looks at whether this practice enhances cities’ contributions to public safety. Nine law enforcement organizations across the country that applied this policy were analyzed. It focused on cost implications, impacts on investigative and emergency response capabilities, job qualifications, training standards, scope of duties, and overall efficacy. Similar themes include the ability of cities to reduce costs and to achieve equivalent work output from civilian personnel. Dissimilar themes surrounded the reasons cities adopted the policy and how they trained the personnel. From the analysis, this thesis determined that the use of civilian personnel does enhance cities’ contributions to public safety. This thesis also identified a need for a uniform national framework for policy adoption and for state peace officer accrediting commissions to develop guidelines for training and certification.

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