OKLAHOMA CITY - It's a first for the Oklahoma City police department; a new program will allow civilians to investigate crime scenes. This week a half-dozen civilian workers are finishing their training and next week they get to work.
The civilians won't carry a weapon, they won't be able to make an arrest and they won't even be in the police union.
They will help solve cases and keep more uniformed cops on the streets.
"Police officers, as it stands now, have an immense workload," recruit Neil Gagel said.
Neil is one of four new CIS, or civilian investigation specialists, being trained by Oklahoma City to dust for finger prints, interview witnesses and photograph crime scenes.
Those are time-consuming tasks critical to solving crimes.
"We hope to alleviate pressure on officers to take reports and hurry to get to the next one," recruit Audrey Mann said.
While the four CIS employees will work smaller, property-based crimes, the department has also hired two civilian CIS techs to work violent crimes including homicides.
"We're there to help them on their worst day," recruit Kiersten Finkle said. "If we can help them by collecting evidence to find a suspect, it makes my day."
The recruits have degrees in criminal justice or forensics.
That should ensure high-quality work in a very tough field.
"It's so competitive to get into the program; you can't just come out of college with a degree and get hired," Captain Dexter Nelson said. "We're actually turning some people down."
"Working in this position I'll be able to do a lot of good for the community and free up officers to respond to more pressing matters," Gagel said.
Oklahoma City isn't alone. Most major departments are hiring civilians to work as crime scene investigators.
Eventually the department said they hope to replace their entire CSI unit with civilian personnel.