The Rutland City Police Department chief hopes to hire a “community resource specialist” next month who can handle some of the non-criminal calls made to the police department and release unsworn officers.
The Community Resource Specialist would be a civilian staff member who could handle some of the calls in a department that currently has 12 openings. The department has a budget of nearly 40 agents.
As of July 1, however, the Rutland City Police Department, with the start of the new fiscal year, will have 33 budgeted positions and six vacant positions.
Chief Brian Kilcullen said much of what city officers are responding to is not criminal in nature. “A lot of what we do when responding to non-criminal calls is to defuse, mediate and help with conflict resolution, so we generally don’t need a sworn officer to do that. With a reduced headcount, we’re trying to somehow improve our response, and it’s easier for us to hire non-sworn staff due to sworn officer training requirements, the academy schedule, and a a number of other things,” he said.
Mayor David Allaire said the idea of the civilian specialist was discussed at length during the discussion of the proposed budget which will come into effect on July 1. He said police and city leaders are looking for a way to meet the challenge of recruiting police officers – a challenge faced by departments nationwide.
“We have lost a significant number of agents and the volume of calls has remained stable, even increased. Many of these calls were of a nature that it was not necessarily a full-time certified police officer who had to answer. So I think it made sense to see if we could recruit someone who can fill the position of unsworn police officer to take a lot of those calls,” Allaire said.
The department is now accepting applications for the position. The specialist will work with the VISION Center Community Response Team.
A job description released by the department said the specialist “will respond to quality of life service calls…(such as) mental health calls…, social checks, landlord and tenant disputes, general non-violent citizens, the weak – risk neighborhood disputes, noise complaints, drunk people, homeless complaints, broken down vehicles, and the dangers of traffic and motor vehicle accidents non-reportable” and “provide a range of interventions and support activities”.
The Rutland City Police Department works with a mental health professional, provided by the Community Care Network/Rutland Mental Health, who can respond to calls in the field. Kilcullen said if the specialist needed support from the mental health professional or a sworn officer, that assistance was “just a radio call away”.
According to Kilcullen, the job description for the position was developed with input from the VISION Project Community Policing Sub-Committee. But the chief said civilian positions are not new to law enforcement.
“They spent a lot of time working with us to guide us towards what they felt was appropriate,” he said.
Kilcullen said he expects the specialist to spend a little longer on a call.
“Unfortunately, when the police respond to these kinds of calls, we don’t always have the luxury of time. We are constantly triaging calls that come in, so often our agents have to put a particular call on hold to answer a more serious call,” he said.
On the other hand, a specialist will have to spend “really” time trying to identify the underlying issues and what might be causing whatever (situation) they are responding to and make sure the caller is connected. to appropriate resources,” the chef added.
Asked what type of person would be best suited for the role, Kilcullen said he thinks good interpersonal skills are obviously important because “there’s always some kind of conflict that we react to”.
“You have to be able to listen, understand and take appropriate action. Ready to listen to both sides because there are always two sides to the story,” he said.
The person hired will receive conflict management training and have an “extensive” period of driving with a sworn officer to learn the trade, he said.
Allaire said he believed job success would be “all about finding the right person.”
“I hope that the recruited person will have skills in mediation because it is very often a question of conflicts, whether they are owners-tenants; if it is neighbor to neighbor; these are issues that can be resolved face to face and if they cannot, they can be referred to the appropriate services. There are many services out there, you just need to connect them with the right people,” he said.
Now that applications are being accepted, Kilcullen said department leaders are excited to be close to filling the position. If the post works as Kilcullen and others hope, the department could expand the program.
Kilcullen said those interested in the position can visit the department’s Facebook page or contact Commander Greg Sheldon to apply.