Op/ED: Police Agencies Cutting Services Depend on Civilian Personnel


Police Agencies Cutting Services Depend on Civilian Personnel. The following article has been written by Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. It includes editorial content which is the opinion of the writer.


Sending unarmed civilian personnel to respond to police calls for service will be risky. Because of under-staffing, it’s probably inevitable.

The premise is that trained civilian personnel will deal with rational people. For many calls, they won’t be sober. They won’t be rational. This will be interesting.

Cutbacks in police services are happening throughout the country.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of directing award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff, Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Former police officer. Aspiring drummer.

Author of ”Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon and additional booksellers.

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Back in the day when I was a cop, we responded to everything. It didn’t matter if it was a medical emergency or a barking dog keeping people awake at 3:00 a.m., we were dispatched.

Yea, we often questioned going on calls that didn’t require a police response, but we went regardless based on a principle of service to people who paid our salaries. Yea, sometimes we were backed up with multiple incidents which put pressure on taking the call and resolving it in as little time as possible. There were people who didn’t like the time we provided for their “emergency.”

Today with the number and rates of police officers declining rapidly, services are being cut or resolved by civilians. Mental health teams are probably the best example. This may be a workable solution as long as they are well-trained and separately funded, and form a partnership with law enforcement.

The major concern is civilians getting involved in calls that escalate without warning. This site has addressed the number of incidents involving people under the influence or mentally or emotionally ill. All cops will cite numerous examples when the simplest of calls turned ugly in a heartbeat.

Unarmed violence interrupters have been murdered in Baltimore and others harmed in additional locations. Three children were stabbed to death and two were injured during a social worker’s visit. One never knows what one will encounter when you enter a home or property.

But it’s a brand new world where police under-staffing requires new a new reality. People want more from law enforcement. They want cops in schools. They want red flag-weapon confiscation laws enforced; can you imagine how many officers it would take to retrieve weapons from a mentally ill person? They want security for special events to prevent mass shootings. They want churches and synagogues patroled. They want foot patrols.

People want more but the mass exodus of cops (per the Bureau of Labor Statistics and numerous media accounts) makes a new reality unavoidable.

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Below is an article from The Hill (the newspaper of Congress) regarding changes in Los Angeles.

 Los Angeles (direct-rearranged quotes)

(KTLA) – The union representing officers of the Los Angeles Police Department has released a list of calls for service that it believes can be handled by responders who are unarmed.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League released a list of 28 potential calls that could warrant an alternate response from unarmed officers or service providers, rather than the typical armed police response.

Union reps said the establishment of an unarmed response protocol will help with the Police Department’s “chronic understaffing” and allow police to focus on responding to emergencies. The union also said these changes could ease concerns from the general public regarding armed officers responding to any and all calls for service. Examples include:

  1. Non-criminal and/or non-violent homeless and quality of life-related calls
    2. Non-criminal mental health calls
    3. Non-violent juvenile disturbance or juveniles beyond parental control calls; (won’t go to school)
    4. Calls to schools unless the school administration is initiating a call for an emergency police response or making a mandatory reporting notification
    5. Public health order violations
    6. Non-violent calls for service at City parks
    7. Under the influence calls (alcohol and/or drugs) where there is no other crime in progress
    8. Welfare check – WELCK
    • Non-criminal
    • Courtesy request from doctors/hospitals
    9. Non-fatal vehicle accidents
    • Non-DUI/non-criminal: property damage only (including City property), verbal disputes involving non-injury traffic collisions, refusing to share ID at traffic collisions
    10. Parking violations
    11. Driveway tow
    12. Abandoned vehicles
    13. Person dumping trash
    14. Vicious and dangerous dog complaints where no attack is in progress
    15. Calls for service for loud noise, loud music, or ‘party’ calls that are anonymous or have no victim
    16. Landlord/tenant disputes
    17. Loitering/trespassing with no indication of danger
    18. Code 30 Alarm Response (except 211 silent alarm) 19. Syringe disposal
    20. DOT stand-by
    21. Homeless encampment clean-ups, unless officers are requested or prescheduled
    22. Panhandling
    23. Illegal vending
    24. Illegal gambling
    25. Fireworks
    26. Defecating/urinating in public
    27. Drinking in public
    28. Suspicious circumstances-possible dead body, where no indication of foul play

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The Hill


Sending unarmed civilians to respond to these calls will be risky. Sure, they could always back away and summon an armed officer. But my concern is that they will involve irrational people under the influence or mentally or emotionally ill.

The premise is that well-trained civilian personnel will deal with rational people. In many of the calls, they won’t be sober. They won’t be reasonable.

We have examples of jurisdictions lowering hiring standards within law enforcement with disastrous results. Qualifications and training are essential for both cops and civilian personnel.

In fairness, in the data I’ve seen on mental health teams, they seem to resolve the vast majority of incidents peacefully without police involvement because they have the education and training necessary.

My fear is that many civilians responding to calls won’t have those credentials.

There’s an interesting article from USA Today regarding the misperceptions between police and the community and how we don’t understand each other. We consistently call for increased community support of law enforcement yet many simply do not understand what cops do and why they do it.

“Breaking through these fears requires painstaking translation. Community members assume police understand what they’re feeling, and why. Police, in turn, assume communities understand all the underlying factors that shape their behavior. There’s a huge disconnect, so the mistrust, head-butting and division persist.”

It’s this mistrust that unarmed civilians will have to navigate to get the job done without injury to themselves or others. That will require a unique person with a significant amount of training, and pure luck.

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See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

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