The work done by the Garden Grove Police Department’s Community Service Officers isn’t always dramatic.
In fact, it’s what you don’t see in the city that’s often a signature of their work: cleaned-up graffiti (CSOs document the graffiti in a report and with photos, and the city subsequently has a graffiti removal team clean up the graffiti), illegally parked cars removed, evidence collected from crime scenes, report writing.
The four civilian CSOs assigned to the report writing unit at the agency — Kari Flood, Summer Bogue, Ryan Berleth and Dave Lofquist — work four days a week to ensure GGPD’s report writing and other important tasks not involving suspect apprehension flow smoothly and efficiently.
“We handle anywhere from 50 to 80 reports, max [of]100 reports a month,” says CSO Kari Flood, who has worked as a Garden Grove CSO for 15 years.
Working two a day patrolling the city in 10-hour shifts, the CSOs spend all of their time in their white vehicles, driving around looking for graffiti to mark and report to the city, handling reports, and towing or citing illegally parked cars. On busy days, they’re called out to assist on a variety of cases, from minor traffic accidents and thefts to more serious crimes like burglaries, bank robberies, stabbings and shootings.
“It’s fun, it’s exciting,” says CSO Summer Bogue. “You never know what’s going to happen that day.”
CSOs can work in a variety of departments within the agency, including the front desk, crime prevention, dispatch and with detectives. Before Bogue started working out in the field, she was responsible for the agency’s in-car video system and would process subpoenas and provide detectives with video needed for cases, including for police pursuits, officer-involved shootings, etc.
One of Flood’s favorite things about working in the field is the positive interaction with the community – especially the kids. It’s common for neighborhood children to run out and greet her when she pays a visit to their street.
“‘Hi Kari, how are you?’” she recalls them saying. “It brightens up your day.”
She’ll honk the car horn for them and turn the siren on – and she’ll hand out GGPD stickers. She’s even been invited out to events, including a kid’s birthday party that she recently attended.
Training to become a Field Report Writer is a three-month process involving on-the-job training riding along with a traffic officer to learn how to write tickets and deal with traffic accidents, and riding with other police officers to learn about officer safety, report writing, learning the city, districts and address numbering system. In addition, there’s a two-week training class in Crime Scene Investigation, including fingerprinting, evidence, blood and DNA collection.
“We do a lot of CSI as well,” says Flood.
For example, if a bank is broken into, Flood or one of the other Field Report Writers will take photos of the scene and collect any evidence left behind by the suspect.
Even when not collecting evidence or writing reports, there’s a bit of detective work involved in simply looking for abandoned or illegally parked cars or those with expired registration.
Flood looks for cobwebs beneath the cars to find those that’ve been parked for a while and she runs license plates through the system on cars with visibly expired registration on the plates. If a car has an expired registration for longer than six months, it can be towed. And for cars with cobwebs, she marks the tires with chalk and waits 72 hours, at which point they can be towed.
There are times in which Field Report Writers find themselves in the middle of the action – a suspect pursuit, for example. In those cases, they stay out of the way of police officers and serve as witnesses for them if they saw the crime happen.
Field Report Writers may also end up testifying in court for evidence they collect – something that Flood says helps them become better report writers because attorneys will often ask very specific questions in the courtroom.
“Even if you think your report is detailed and thorough, you can always be more (detailed and thorough),” Flood says.
Whether they’re assisting with a city event like the Strawberry Festival, helping at a DUI checkpoint or documenting graffiti, it’s clear the team is serving the agency and the community, and having a good time doing it.
“I love what I do,” Flood says.
Her colleagues do, too.