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The Civilian Side of Fighting Crime

The Civilian Side of Fighting Crime

Sergeant Betsy Brantner Smith

Do you love the idea of being involved in crimefighting but are not sure you’re ready, willing or able to strap on a gun, a badge, and a TASER? Fortunately for you, there are literally hundreds of opportunities to work in law enforcement without being a sworn officer. In fact, your most difficult decision may be which position to go after, so think about your talents, your personality traits, and your career goals, and then consider some of these potential career paths.

Are you an action junkie?

Being a police dispatcher is the job for you. Having been both a dispatcher and a street cop, I can tell you that both positions can offer a similar adrenaline “rush.” Working in an emergency communications center can give you the challenge and excitement of handling everything from suicidal threats to armed robberies to delivering babies, all via the telephone, the computer and the radio. Because you’re responsible not only for the safety of the community but of the officers you serve, the camaraderie runs high, as does the excitement. Be prepared for some job stress and some tense moments, but if like action, dispatch is a great way to serve the community without putting your life on the line.

Do you like to be in the middle of it all?

Look for a job as an administrative aid in a police agency. As any chief or sheriff will tell you, their secretary is one of their most trusted advisors and confidantes. Administrative aides in most police departments are privy to and trusted with a great deal of confidential information and communication; there are few people considered more valuable to the organization. Make sure your skills are sharp and that you can be counted on to keep confidences and you’ll find yourself with an extremely rewarding and interesting career.

Do you crave order and organization?

Look no further than the records section of your local police department. Even in this age of electronic information storage and retrieval, most police agencies generate a surprising amount of “paper” data, all of which has to be collected, filed, and managed. Records technicians often manage both “hard copy” and electronic data, and they also may handle citations, collect bond money, deal with the public at an information window, and staff non-emergency call centers, among many other responsibilities. Look for openings in your area and then ask to sit down with one of the supervisors and see if they offer the type of challenge you are looking for.

Was science you favorite subject in school?

Many local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have civilian opportunities in their crime labs or on their forensic teams. You could work in fingerprint identification, drug analysis, or on a crime scene unit handling crimes from burglaries to homicides. Make sure you have an eye for detail, a mind for science and plenty of patience, and then seek out a good forensic studies program. Some agencies offer on-the-job training, others will require you to have specialized training and/or a degree.

Do you love animals?

Consider becoming an animal control officer. Modern “ACO’s” are nothing like the stereotypical dog catchers of old “Lassie” movies. Today’s animal control officers enforce ordinances, investigate abuse, respond to wildlife calls, and provide invaluable information to the public. As an ACO you may be called upon to give presentations at schools or at your local citizen’s police academy, testify in court, and even assist in child abuse and other criminal cases where animal abuse is often a symptom of a larger issue.

Do you like to be outside?

Many police departments hire civilian “community service officers” to supplement their patrol staff. CSO’s handle lockouts, take non-injury crash reports, direct traffic, work at the front desk and handle many other non-emergency police matters, keeping patrol officers free to address criminal activity and other, more pressing issues. CSO’s are generally issued uniforms and less lethal weapons (such as an ASP, OC spray, and/or a TASER) and drive some sort of marked police unit but do not make traffic stops or take enforcement activity beyond parking citations. They may also perform parking enforcement and other similar duties. They work outside in all weather conditions and interact closely with uniformed officers and the public, so if you’re a “people person” this is the job for you.

Do you like public speaking?

Many police departments have civilianized the crime prevention function. As a “crime prevention specialist” you might be handling neighborhood watch meetings, presenting child safety classes, or developing programs for senior citizens among many other duties. This is an excellent job if you are out-going, enjoy working with different age groups, and believe in the power of prevention.

Are you a techie?

Like most organizations, police departments are dependent on computers and other technology for their day-to-day operations. As a law enforcement computer professional, you may be responsible for myriad duties including managing the dispatch function, the booking system, various databases, personal computers, even assisting the computer crimes unit. The possibilities are endless and depend primarily on the size of the agency you choose and your level of skill and education.

Working with law enforcement can be incredibly rewarding and you don’t need to be able to arrest people to make a difference in the community. If you’re interested in law enforcement but not sure you want to be a full-fledged cop, take a look at the civilian side of fighting crime; you’ll be glad you did!


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    LAWMANTUKES

    over 3 years ago

    6976 Comments

    As usual, Betsy has provided us with the much needed information, motivation, direction and outstanding knowledge of the field, to serve and get involved even after we've turn in our badges.... Good Job Betsy..!! I wish you continued success in all that you do.

  • Img_0826_max50

    pudhcat

    over 3 years ago

    2524 Comments

    got to admit it...I'm a DISPATCHER thus I am an "ACTION JUNKIE"....I'm sure after 23 yrs of it & facing another 20 more I'll have to join some group to learn to wind down and sing Kumbayah more often...but yet I am CISM (training for CIT and work w/ CBT) and as we all know, us CISM'rs are nothing but "tree huggers" anyway ;D so I guess there is hope for me yet!! :)

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    cora521

    over 3 years ago

    22 Comments

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  • Tigerstripe_002_max50

    Daysend

    over 3 years ago

    902 Comments

    I like the techie part, I may look into that. Federal VIPs sounds good to

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    ami2old

    over 5 years ago

    478 Comments

    Thanks for the many suggestions.
    Also there are for those who wish to support LE the Federal VIPS program or Volunteers in Police Services of course this is non paying strickly a giving of yourself to free up Officers so they may be out and about protecting ones community.
    Godbless

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    ami2old

    over 5 years ago

    478 Comments

    Thanks for the many suggestions.
    Also there are for those who wish to support LE the Federal VIPS program or Volunteers in Police Services of course this is non paying strickly a giving of yourself to free up Officers so they may be out and about protecting ones community.
    Godbless

  • Funny_144_max50

    litldarlin

    over 5 years ago

    244 Comments

    Figured out how I can work in LE. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    guarddog45

    over 5 years ago

    218 Comments

    This was a great article with some interesting angles that I haven't yet explored. Thanks for the advice. GuardDog45

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    tucsontrek

    over 5 years ago

    60 Comments

    I am one of the 28 Community Service Officers proudly serving in the Tucson (AZ) Police Department, and have done so for almost 10 years. It's a GREAT job! I retired from the military, and at age 40 found I needed to go to work. I was lucky enough to find this job. Everything I do is something a police officer would have to do - but since I am there, that officer is available to take care of the higher priority (read "hot toned-up") calls. Now I'm 50, and I can see me still doing this job into my late 60s. It's a good gig for me, it's good for the citizens who get better response times on high AND low priority calls, and it's good for the officers who can now spend more time doing pro-active police work instead of chasing the radio doing found property calls and car busts. Take a look at the Wikipedia article on Community Service Officers for more information....

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    elwappo777

    over 5 years ago

    30 Comments

    I JUST GOT LAID OFF AS A CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE AS A DISPATCHER. I AM A RETIRED POLICE OFFICER AND NOW AT 60 WAS DOING WELL AS A DISPATCHER. UNEMPLOYMENT SECURITY IS A NIGHTMARE. THEY DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE AND YOU GET KICKED OFF ONLINE. I WOULD LIKE TO GET WORKING AGAIN, HOPE THERE ARE OTHER COMMUNITIES NEEDING AN EXPERIENCED DISPATCHER.

  • Pow_smjpg_max50

    Pama

    over 5 years ago

    1510 Comments

    This was a very good article, I wish, as a former 911 dispatcher, I could volunteer for some hours in dispatch again. Help out a small PD that has limited budgets and still have a trained volunteer. Can you do that these days maybe? Would love to know :)

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