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Civilian Law Enforcement Alternatives

A civilian career in law enforcement is a great alternative to serving as a sworn officer. For any number of reasons, serving as a sworn peace officer is not for everyone. Civilian or non-sworn positions abound in most agencies. These jobs offer a fantastic opportunity to give back to your community and still work in the law enforcement field.  

Typical civilian / non-sworn positions are summarized below. These positions vary in the amount of training or education required.

Photo of civilian working on a computer

Civilian Investigators – Some agencies employ civilian investigators to investigate a wide range of incidents including traffic collisions, financial crimes, property crimes, and crimes against persons.

Correctional Staff / Jailers – Jurisdictions that operate their own detention facilities often rely on a civilian staff. These employees provide security services for the facility and handle in-take, processing, monitoring, feeding, and transportation of inmates. See also the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association.

Crime Analysts – Crime analysts help law enforcement agencies translate their vast amounts of data into actionable information about crime patterns and trends, thereby helping to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of officer activity. See also the International Association of Crime Analysts.

Crime Prevention / Community Outreach – In many jurisdictions, civilian personnel work closely with uniformed officers in crime prevention and other community outreach efforts. See also the National Crime Prevention Council.  

Dispatchers / Call Takers - Dispatchers and 911 call takers work around the clock answering calls for service and dispatching personnel to scenes using high-tech communications equipment. See also Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International.

Equipment / Fleet Management – Law enforcement agencies use a variety of specialized equipment from handheld radios to GPS to customized vehicles. Many agencies employ trained staff to maintain this equipment.

Police Dispatcher

Forensic Technicians – Some agencies hire civilian forensic technicians who are on call 24 hours a day to respond to crime scenes, take photographs, collect, and analyze evidence. See also the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Information Technology Specialists – Technological advances in crime fighting equipment such as in-car mobile data terminals (MDTs), computerized mapping, digital video, and wireless communication have generated a great demand for qualified IT professionals in police agencies. See also the IACP Technology Clearinghouse.

Intelligence Analysts – With increased emphasis in intelligence-led policing, many agencies employ analysts specially trained to collate and interpret intelligence gathered by officers in the field. For military veterans, this can be a great way to translate prior intelligence experience in a civilian job. See also the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts.

Parking Enforcement – Non-sworn personnel in this capacity may enforce various local and state parking laws, mark and remove abandoned or illegally parked vehicles, and assist with traffic control as needed during special events or critical incidents.

Planners / Researchers – These professionals may perform a wide range of duties including grant management, strategic planning, and coordinating agency policy and accreditation issues. See also the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners

Property / Evidence Management – From officer uniforms and equipment to crime scene evidence and seized goods, agencies employ civilian personnel to manage and organize these inventories.

Public Information Officers – Some jurisdictions employ civilian public information officers to field requests from the public and the media and manage the messages of the department.

Police officer collecting eveidence(finger prints) from broken glass

Records Management – Every action an officer makes, from a field interview to a crime report or arrest, generates some record of data. Even with the increase in paperless technologies, most agencies still need assistance with data entry and records management.

Victim Service Providers / Advocates – These individuals offer support and assistance for crime victims, family members, and witnesses. They typically provide supportive counseling, referrals to community and social services, and act as a liaison with the criminal justice system. See also National Center for Victims of Crime

Volunteers – Serving as a volunteer can be a fantastic way to get involved with law enforcement agencies in your local area. Volunteers play critical roles in agencies all across the country. More information about volunteering.