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More civilian responders will be sent in response to 911 calls, says Mayor Hamilton



Bloomington, Indiana – At the city council meeting for the 2024 budget in August, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton suggested a new rule that would let civilian workers of the police department respond to some 911 calls. Hamilton said that the Bloomington Police Department’s personnel issues will be addressed by this new strategy.

The proposed Hamilton budget for 2024 will be put to the council’s vote on October 11.

Hamilton announced that the city would recruit five new Community Service Specialists to handle welfare checks and noise complaints using funds from the police department.

According to an email from BPD Captain Ryan Pedigo, the department presently employs seven full-time CSSs and one part-time CSS.

Pedigo claimed that CSSs are unarmed, non-certified police officers. CSSs use a marked police car equipped with emergency lights. In addition to taking reports for occurrences like previous thefts, vandalism, property damage, and wrecks, they also respond to non-emergency calls. CSS cannot make arrests; they can only take reports.

“The CSS program has been successful in allowing officers to respond more quickly to higher priority events that require response of a sworn officer,” Pedigo said.

A high school graduation or its equivalent, a working knowledge of Indiana’s traffic laws, and effective communication abilities are some of the CSS employment requirements.

Due to the current staffing shortfall at BPD, Paul Post, president of the Don Ownes Fraternal Police Union, is opposed to the hiring of additional CSSs.

“We already have open positions for community service specialists,” Post said.“By adding more, they would be taking money from sworn officers and we don’t want to see any change to that.”

According to Indiana Public Media, BPD has 84 officers as opposed to the 105 that were allocated in the budget.

According to the post, welfare checks and noise complaints might involve a variety of situations, and an officer or CSS can never know what they could encounter. According to Post, BPD often responds to these calls with two officers or CSSs.

Post-party noise complaints may result from underage drinking or intoxicated driving in response to a big home party. Welfare inspections may involve incidents of agitated individuals or those who are found deceased within a home.

“Civilians are not going to be able to handle this in a safe manor and we don’t want people to get hurt or find themselves in a bad spot over it,” Post said.

Public media in Indiana reported The $24,734,136 budget request for the Bloomington Police Department for 2024 was denied by the city council on August 29. The budget plan contains $808,447 for supplies and $19,390,633 for staff, a 6% increase and 6% decrease respectively from 2023.

The budget for the BPD contained objectives such as concentrating patrols in areas where data analysis indicated high crime patterns, increasing the number of hours available to community service experts, adding a police social worker, and relocating the police headquarters to the downtown Showers Building.