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Civilian officers will join police department in May

By Janice Gregorson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A plan that has been in the works for a year becomes reality May 8.

That’s when 16 civilians will join the Rochester Police Department as community service officers.

Chief Roger Peterson got inspiration for the program from London. That city introduced the idea of civilian police support officers in 2002 to take on many nonemergency duties and free up officers to tackle crime.

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He took his plan to the city council last summer and got the OK in December.

Peterson said the candidates are going through the final phases of hiring, background checks, and will be on board May 8. There will be four full-time and 12 part-time community officers.

Peterson said that 72 percent of an average police officer’s time is spent dealing with nonemergency calls. The community officers will handle a lot of those calls. They will wear light blue uniforms, similar to those worn by parking enforement officers, and won’t be armed.

Peterson said people will see them at community events, such as Rochesterfest, and patrolling areas such as the Peace Plaza downtown.

Half of the 16 officers will come from the law enforcement program at Rochester Community and Technical College, and half will be people who have no interest in becoming full-time police officers. Peterson said drawing from RCTC’s law enforcement program will provides students with the experience they need to be eligible to apply for full-time police positions in a year or two.

Once on board, the civilian officers will go through three weeks of in-house training, then be on the street under the supervision of field-training officers for a period of time.

Peterson is confident the civilians officers will free up enough officer time to be able to form a full-time traffic enforcement squad and transfer a patrol officer to beef up the department’s narcotics investigation unit.

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