The eight Community Service Officers (CSOs) each work in a single neighborhood, get to know the people, and forge close ties to improve safety in the area.
TOLEDO, Ohio – Community Service Officers (CSOs) have been part of the Toledo Police Force since 2018 and are a key component to better neighborly relations.
There are eight CSOs that cover the whole city. Their job is to get out into the neighborhoods and bond with the people who will lead to a safer city.
CSOs are not new, but they are becoming a more important part of policing. With a focus on community policing, officers participate in public events, neighborhood watch group meetings, and local parks, mingling with children and neighbors.
“Agents need to go into communities, talk to people, go to community centers, get involved,” said community activist Shay Bankston.
Chief George Kral says their work is essential to making our neighborhoods safer and more confident in the police and he hopes to have more in the future.
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“I would say we have more CSOs than most departments our size,” Kral said. “I think they are incredibly important.”
Chief Kral says he wants to add more to the unit in the near future.
“We have one for each district now,” he said. “Ideally, we should have two or three for each district.
Bankston believes community service workers are essential to seeing a reduction in crime and other problems over the next 10 years. She has organized several events with CSOs since they started and she thinks they are invaluable to the community, especially the children.
“I have a video of officers dancing with the kids and going out and playing,” Bankston said. “All officers should be mandated or required to attend community events at some level. I think that should just be part of the job.”
Both Kral and Bankston say this kind of cop engagement builds trust and helps make communities safer.
“They’re working hand in hand with our investigators down the hall, with our field operations officers to say ‘hey, I heard grunts that there might be retaliation,'” Kral said, ” or that it could go down. “
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Bankston says that children who have interacted with CSOs connect with them on a more personal level and that it is important to reach them now when they are young and to create a healthier relationship with the police.
“Don’t see law enforcement as a punitive thing or something to be afraid of, but see them as an integrated part of our community, someone I can talk to,” Bankston said.
Bankston says if young people today see this type of law enforcement, it will lead to better police relations down the line.
Chief Kral said he plans to add more CSOs as they hire nearly 100 new officers over the next year.
You can find the contact information for your community service agent here.