GULFPORT, Mississippi (WLOX) — Recent high school graduates are being offered a chance to get their foot in the door and establish a lifelong career in protection and service.
The Gulfport Police Department has just relaunched its Community Service Officer program.
From responding to burglaries and assisting with case processing, the program is designed to create a pipeline of future police officers.
You may have seen their vehicles on the streets of Gulfport. Behind the wheel, young adults work alongside the city’s police. Some of them are teenagers who have a passion for law enforcement, but no experience.
That’s where the Community Service Officer program comes in, providing on-the-job training for recruits under the age of 21.
“I learned a lot about defusing situations and interacting more in my community and learned the basics of policing, like writing reports,” said Community Services Officer Faith Smith.
The program acts as a stepping stone for officers who are not yet sworn in but intend to be. They start young, progress by assisting patrol officers, taking reports, responding to minor accidents, enforcing parking and controlling traffic.
“That’s where I started here at the police department,” Gulfport Police Chief Adam Cooper said. “I hadn’t quite finished university and I knew I wanted to be a policeman. They took a chance and hired me as CST, now CSO and here I am today.
“It means a lot to see someone start where I am now and know that I could eventually do it one day,” said community services officer Ty Peterson.
Law enforcement agencies across the country are facing an unprecedented challenge in a climate where police recruitment is becoming more difficult. Gulfport is no exception with more than 20 vacancies in its police department.
“We actually have an easier time hiring CSOs than we do police officers right now,” Chief Cooper said. “We had missed out on a whole generation that wanted to become a police officer.
With five community service officers, the department paves the way for the rookie’s career in law enforcement; and in turn, the department hopes to be able to swear them in as their own once they turn 21.
More information on how to get involved in the program can be found at http://jobs.gulfport-ms.gov/CommunityServiceOfficerI.pdf.
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