Community service

EPD hopes to expand community service officer program | New

EUGENE, Ore. – The role of a first responder comes in many different forms. As the need for this important work grows, the Eugene Police Department hopes to shine a spotlight on its community service officers.

Capt. Billy Halvorson said the community service officer program has been part of the EPD since the 1970s. But in recent years these unarmed officers have received more attention.

“CSOs, their work has changed. They’ve become more involved in appeals,” Halvorson said. “Over time the community has expressed a need and desire to have other responses besides an armed cop showing up at their house if they don’t need it, and so that’s a correlation straight with it.”

Halvorson said the police department had received funding from the Community Safety Initiative, which would now allow them to engage more CSOs.

“The idea is that if we increase our CSO capacity, they can be more responsive, take calls and take information from people, help them with any problem they have, whether someone has stolen their bike or broke into their house. Then they will collect all the information, write the reports and pass them on to detectives,” Halvorson said.

Halvorson said CSOs can respond to some non-emergency calls rather than sending a sworn officer.

“I kind of tease them because they’re the ones helping; that’s really what they do,” Halvorson said. “They are a huge support and a great asset to the police and help us to be able to respond to other situations and issues.”

He said they were looking to hire five officers and possibly increase their team to 20 or more. To become a CSO, a candidate must have a high school diploma or GED and at least one year of some sort of community service interaction.

“Ideally, we’re looking for someone with that helping, people-oriented mindset. They’re dealing with people who aren’t having a good day and are looking to make a difference in the community,” said Halvorson.

This program also allows mobility within the department. Over time, some CSOs may evolve into a sworn officer position and vice versa. And with a stockpile of personnel in the industry, CSOs are helping fill the gaps.

“From a business perspective, this is a perfect model because you’re allocating the assets for the right thing,” Halvorson said.

Community Service Officer Supervisor Colin Woolston says becoming a CSO is the biggest decision he has made.

“My main function is to help people. I can do a lot of cool stuff right up to diving deep into investigations. I love giving ownership back to people who have had their stuff taken away,” Woolston said.

Woolston said his favorite part of the job is the immediate impact he has on his community.

“One of the things that we actively do as a CSO is that if there is a person in danger of disappearance in the city or a missing minor, we will go out and search for people. And to find people and the bring back to their families, that’s such a rewarding thing,” Woolston said.

Woolston said on slow days he answered three to five calls. But on busy days, he could be on the go, jumping from call to call, answering about 15. He said they also take about 10 to 25 office calls a day where they would write reports on incidents that don’t need a police. officer.

“There’s a lot of detail in this work,” Woolston said.

He said his hope for the coming months is to create a stronger relationship with the community.

“All I want to do on a daily basis is go out and help people and do my best to serve the community. I hope this builds a better reputation for the police in general,” Woolston said.