SJPD Enlists Civilian Officers

Hoping to stopgap a critical staffing shortage, San Jose Police Department hired a cadre of civilian cops.

Armed only with pepper spray, Community Service Officers will deal with low-priority calls, like vandalism and theft, and write reports. They won't respond to calls involving an active suspect, arrest anyone or issue citations.

"The community service officers will enhance our operational ability on patrol while enabling our sworn staff to respond to emergency calls for service and conduct proactive police enforcement," Chief Larry Esquivel said in a statement. "This program will strengthen our partnership with the community and given our current staffing issues."

The program kicked off its inaugural five-week academy this week, training 25 recruits. Graduation is set for Aug. 21, followed by a few weeks of field training. The new CSOs will officially deploy on Sept. 14.

Police sergeants will supervise the new CSOs, who will wear light blue uniforms and drive white Ford Focus sedans with "Community Service Officer" spelled out on both sides.

San Jose's police force shrunk from more than 1,400 in 2008 to less than 1,000. The department has struggled to recruit and retain officers as the police union fights the city over disability and pension issues.

Qualifications to become a CSO include a high school diploma, driver's license and no felony convictions. Annual pay starts at $52,000 and caps at $72,000 after nine years.

7 Comments

  1. Great job SJPD! Many cities do this to enable trained Police Officers to handle high priority cases.

    • Agree Kathleen. There a number of lower priority issues that don’t need a sworn officer. Plus they help with paperwork, something many officers do not like doing. Other cities provide this service and regardless of Measure B (which FYI I did not support) this is just good managment of resources. Kudos for SJPD and the city for pushing this through.

  2. Why not just use neighborhood watch groups armed with pencils and clipboards? Should scare off the bad guys! Toss in some flashlights for good measure.

  3. what a joke this city council has made of our public safety. Silly to think a few civilians (you need to quit calling them officers) will be running around taking worthless insurance reports because there are not enough real police officers to do follow-up investigations.

  4. And the reality is just that! These CSO’s are taking reports for insurance companies! Burglary reports, vandalism and auto thefts…. None of these are able to be investigated due to lack of manpower… Does anyone remember when Madison Nguyen endorsed eliminating the burglary unit, auto theft unit and the local graffiti task force? This city council and mayor stink to high heaven.