Alan Gomez
USA TODAY
March 31, 2008

Facing tighter budgets, law enforcement agencies around the country are increasingly turning to civilians to respond to some calls that sworn officers and deputies are usually responsible for.

That means people calling 911 to report a traffic accident, a burglarized home or a stolen car may be greeted by a civilian in a polo shirt instead of a gun-toting officer.

“It hasn’t been universally adopted throughout the country. But most areas have at least thought about the alternative and are more open to it now because of the economy,” said Richard Brady, president of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Matrix Consulting Group that has worked with more than 250 law enforcement agencies.

The idea of using civilians, who require less training and are less expensive than sworn officers, to respond to minor police calls has been around since the late 1980s.

Brady said the practice died off for years as the economy improved and departments were augmented after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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