TACOMA, Wash. — A new report says thousands of emergency calls made in Tacoma, Washington, could be handled by trained civilians rather than sworn police officers.
The Report on the Alternative Response Study, created by Matrix Consulting Group, found that 9.4 percent of calls handled by Tacoma patrol officers per year — about 7,829 — could be diverted to a civilian response group.
The News Tribune reports the study recommended creating a new civilian community service officer classification within the Tacoma Police Department to respond to certain non-emergency calls in the field.
Those calls could include minor non-injury accidents, petty theft reports, burglary reports not happening in the moment and low-priority calls relating to homelessness that do not pose a major risk to the responder.
Diverting those calls would free up patrol officers to be proactive in engaging with the public and focusing on more severe calls for service, the report states.
In a statement to the newspaper, interim Tacoma police chief Mike Ake said he welcomed the study.
“We recognize that homelessness and mental health are major issues facing our communities and value any insight in how to better serve these vulnerable populations and assist them in receiving the services they need,” Ake said.
Tacoma is Washington’s third-largest city with a population of about 220,000.
The city of Tacoma commissioned the study for $42,000 as part of an effort to transform the city into an “anti-racist organization” following protests and outcry from the public over excessive use of force by police.
The city also spent $250,000 this past year to a consulting firm to review and recommend changes to Tacoma Police Department policy, including use of force.
The report suggested adding 10 community service officers and one CSO supervisor position to staff a new civilian response program, totaling $540,265 in initial costs and $1,009,811 in annual personnel costs. The price was calculated based on regional costs and comparisons to agencies in Riverside County, California that have a cost of living that is within 15 percent of Pierce County.
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