Pa. police department sets up new civilian division to handle nonviolent calls

The six-person Community Services Division program is designed in part to strengthen community relationships

By Police1 Staff

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A police department in Pennsylvania has set up a new civilian division to offer residents an alternate option to respond to calls. 

According to The Patriot-News, the six-person Community Services Division at the Harrisburg Bureau of Police was launched in March. Made up of civilians, Community Service Aides are assigned to handle nonviolent calls such as noise complaints, disputes, loitering and homelessness.

The program is designed in part to strengthen community relationships.

"There's a relatability," Chardan Huston, director of the Community Service Aides program, told the Patriot-News. "Even though the CSAs are in uniform, there's also an understanding when they're able to come to a person and say, 'Hey I'm not a police officer, I'm here to talk to you like a human being. I'm not here to arrest you, I'm not here to badger you. I'm just here to be helpful as much as possible.'"

It's also designed to help ease the workload of sworn officers. 

"Not to say that there isn't a need [for police] to have some sort of understanding of both [criminal and social issues]," Huston told the Patriot-News. "I do think officers do need to have an understanding of both, but that doesn't mean that they're always equipped to handle it all at once. And so CSAs can be that balance for them."

READ: ‘Quasi-police’: More than 600 apply for Phoenix PD civilian jobs

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