The Berkeley Police Department has gone from 200 sworn officers in 2002 to 165 today. The police review commission Wednesday will explore whether the department could make the most of its resources by expanding the ranks of its community service officers beyond the 18 it now employs.
The concept of the non-sworn, unarmed community service officer has been around since the 1970s. But as budgets shrank and the public demand for speedy response times rose, departments have began actively turning to the lower paid CSOs to take on crime prevention, traffic control, and administrative duties, freeing sworn officers for crime interception and investigation.
In 2002, the city manager asked the department whether additional community service officers could take on more duties to alleviate understaffing, but the question remained unanswered until now.
UC Berkeley already uses community service officers to direct traffic, patrol housing, escort students at night, school incoming freshmen in crime prevention among other tasks. Pay starts at $11.90 an hour.
Already, the department, which is supported through the city’s General Fund, has replaced a police lieutenant with a civilian communications manager for a savings of $80,280. Chief Michael Meehan has said he plans to explore the possible cost savings that could be realized by reorganizing the city jail staff.
The newly adopted two-year budget includes these additional staffing cuts in the first year:
- Five sworn officer positions, which will save more than $1 million.
- Office specialist II and a human resource analyst slots for a total $241,032.
- Parking enforcement officer and a community service officer for a combined $223,824.
By transporting prisoners during regular duty hours, the department will net a savings of $78,000.
In 2013, the budget calls for the elimination of three office specialist positions and a crime analyst, which would cull $536,000 from the budget.
Getting rid of compensatory overtime in both years will yield an additional $156,000.
Serious crimes dropped by 8.8 percent from 2009 to 2010, the steepest decline in a decade. Meehan has set a goal of reducing violent crime by an additional 10 percent over the next two fiscal years.
The Berkeley Police Review Commission meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St.