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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

crime & courts bloomington

Mayor Hamilton proposes sending more civilian responders on 911 calls

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Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton proposed a new policy that would allow civilian employees of the police department to respond to some 911 calls at the city council 2024 budget hearing in August. Hamilton said this new plan would help combat the Bloomington Police Department’s staffing shortages.

The council will vote on Hamilton’s proposed 2024 budget plan Oct. 11.  

Hamilton said the city would use money from the police department to hire five new Community Service Specialists that would respond to welfare checks or noise complaints.  

BPD Captain Ryan Pedigo said in an email that BPD currently has seven full-time CSSs and one part time CSS. 

Pedigo said CSSs are non-certified, unarmed employees of the police department. CSSs drive a specially marked patrol vehicle that has emergency lights. They respond to non-emergency calls and take reports for incidents such as prior thefts, vandalism, property damage and crashes. CSS can only take reports and do not make arrests.  

“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. 

Some of the CSS job requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, basic knowledge of Indiana Traffic Code and strong communication skills.  

[Related: Bloomington activist, 60 others, indicted in connection to ‘Cop City’ protests]

Paul Post, president of the Don Ownes Fraternal Police Union, opposes the addition of more CSSs due to BPD currently having a staff shortage.  

“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.” 

BPD budgeted for 105 officers but currently has 84 officers, according to Indiana Public Media. 

Post said noise complaints and welfare checks should not be minimized as they can include a wide range of cases and an officer or CSS can't predict what they may walk into. Post said BPD typically sends two officers or CSSs on these types of calls.  

Post added noise complaints can include responding to a large house party with underage drinking or drunk driving. Welfare checks can include cases of someone in an agitated state or lying dead in a house. “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.  

[Related: Bloomington Faculty Council discusses affirmative action, strategic plan during meeting Tuesday]

Indiana public media reported Bloomington city council members rejected the police departments 2024 budget request of $24,734,136 presented on Aug. 29 by Police Chief Mike Diekhoff. The budget request includes $19,390,633 for personnel, an increase of 6% from 2023 and $808,447 for supplies, a decrease of 3% from 2023.  

Some of BPD’s goals included in the budget were focusing patrols in areas where data analysis shows high crime trends, giving community service specialists more hours, hiring a police social worker and moving the police headquarters to the downtown Showers Building.

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