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.