If you’re involved in a fender bender in Wilmington, N.C., chances are about 50-50 that a uniformed police officer will show up at the scene. It’s not because minor crashes aren’t taken seriously or that workforce shortages are especially severe there. Instead, the city employs a squad of civilian technicians to respond to many of its non-injury accidents.
This is part of a movement across the country to remove some administrative tasks from the portfolio of uniformed police. Efforts in major cities to have social workers or mental health professionals respond to emergency calls have drawn most of the attention — and controversy. Having civilians fill out paperwork, by contrast, has been less heated, while the savings in terms of personnel costs are clear.
Denver also uses civilian technicians to write up accidents. New Orleans uses them not only for traffic but situations like lost pets and, in some cases, theft. Cities from New York to Oakland, Calif., are now allowing residents to fill in their own reports online when they’re victims of theft. Humans will review the forms and ask questions when necessary, but the results are generally good enough to satisfy insurance companies. Meanwhile, officers are freed up to spend more time investigating serious crimes such as rape or homicide.
Full story: Civilians and Automation Are Making Police Departments More Efficient