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Civilians join crime investigators at Oklahoma City Police Department

The Oklahoma City Police Department graduated two civilian crime scene investigators and four civilian investigation specialists Friday. The department is in the process of transforming its crime scene unit to an all-civilian staff, police officials said.
BY LEIGHANNE MANWARREN Modified: June 29, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: June 29, 2013

Melissa Lower worked as an Oklahoma City 911 dispatcher for more than three years.

She had a bachelor's degree in forensic science from the University of Central Oklahoma, so when she saw a job listing for a civilian position with the police department, she applied.

Lower is one of the first four civilian investigation specialists (CIS) hired to work in a police department pilot program.

“I thought it would be fun to go out and serve the community,” she said. “It's like a Cracker Jack box; you're never going to know what you get.”

The four civilian investigation specialists, along with two civilian crime scene investigators, graduated from a five-week training program Friday morning at police headquarters.

“I have always had a big respect for the police department and I have always been interested in CSI ... so I thought this was a good job and a good opportunity to combine both,” said Audrey Mann, a civilian investigation specialist.

The six graduates will spend the next eight weeks on the street, doing field training, police Capt. Dexter Nelson said.

“We want the public to know these investigators will be out on the street. ... they will be in a uniform that will look like a police officer, but they will not be armed. They will not respond to any call that can involve any suspect being in the scene or any call that will require an officer present,” Nelson said.

“They are not police officers, they are civilian investigators.”

About their work

Police Chief Bill Citty said officials used the Tucson, Ariz., Police Department's program as a template for the new program. The Oklahoma City Police Department's civilian investigation specialists are expected to take low-priority calls and police reports and to process crime scenes.

Low-priority crimes are those where a suspect is not present when the specialists process the scene, such as residential and commercial burglaries, vandalisms, auto burglaries, white collar crimes and identity theft.

“This allows us to take the calls off of sworn police officers — again, having them more available for calls for service where you need a sworn police officer versus a civilian,” Citty said.

With the hiring of its first two civilian crime scene investigators, the Oklahoma City Police Department is starting to transform its crime scene investigations unit, Citty said.

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