Fort Worth

Fort Worth Police to Start Dispatching Civilians to Some Low-Risk Calls

First nine members of Civilian Response Unit to graduate on Friday

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Fort Worth police will soon dispatch civilians to some non-violent calls to write reports and do basic work traditionally done by officers.

The first nine members of the new “Civilian Response Unit” will graduate Friday after six weeks of training at the police academy.

They’ll drive marked cars that say “Civilian Response” but don’t look anything like police squad cars and wear collared shirts with the city logo.

They’ll respond to a wide range of calls such as abandoned cars, loose cattle, burglaries, and credit card fraud.

They were trained in basic investigative techniques like searching for fingerprints at crime scenes.

"We're not armed, we aren't going to have no guns or anything like that but we are here to provide the best service,” said Vanessa Clementino, one of the new graduates.

A native of Brazil, she was working at Amazon when she applied for this job.

She speaks Spanish and looks forward to engaging with the Latino community, she said.

"It was the opportunity to give it back to the community, my skills,” Clementino said.

Police say the idea for the program grew out of last summer's protests.

"One of the things they asked for is not having a police officer to respond to calls that don't require a police officer,” said Lt. Chris Gorrie who supervises the Civilian Response Unit. “So we decided to listen and to give this unit a try so they can respond to those low-level calls and leave us free to respond to the emergencies."

The civilians will be assigned bullet-proof vests, but they don't plan to be in a situation where they'll need them.

"We're very clear on the fact they cannot go to a scene where a suspect could be present or could return,” Gorrie said.

For now, they'll work Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., in central, east and south Fort Worth.

But police say this could be just the beginning.

"This is a great experiment,” Gorrie said. “We're the largest department in the state of Texas that I'm aware of doing this. The hope is if they're successful and received well by the community we'll expand it to cover 24/7."

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