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'It's an amazing opportunity to help out': Civilian investigators with Phoenix police helping to fill holes left by staffing shortages

The City of Phoenix approved 25 civilian investigator positions to help the department to interview witnesses, sift through police warrants and other daily tasks.

PHOENIX — Many organizations are still dealing with staffing shortages and the Phoenix Police Department is among them.

However, back in March, the City of Phoenix approved 33 new jobs, 25 of which are civilian investigator jobs to help with those shortages.

The investigators are not meant to replace detectives but "supplement and support the investigative mission," according to the department's website.

They will help sift through warrants, collect evidence, interview witnesses and other tasks routinely performed by police officers.

Martinique Sandoval spent 21 years with Phoenix police but now serves as a civilian investigator assisting the department.

"I used to talk to the callers on their worst day and now here I am, I get to help them and try to make their day a lot better," she said.

The positions also help keep sworn officers out on the street to respond to more serious calls.

"Hiring is difficult across the country and within law enforcement agencies, so we're looking for new and innovative ways that we could become more efficient and serve the community better and this is one of those ways," Commander Amy Smith said.

There are several different areas in that civilian investigators can specialize.

"Our homicide unit, our violent crimes unit, also our property crimes unit, our family investigations bureau, our drug enforcement bureau and at this time our background investigation bureau," Smith said.

While the specialty bureaus sound dangerous, there are no high-risk duties assigned.

"This is a person that's working behind the scenes, if they're going to interview a suspect, it's with another detective in the room. Every six weeks we do a recruit academy class but the civilian police investigators are backfilling some of those positions so we can have sworn officers on the streets answering 911 calls and officers who are able to pick up suspects."

The job ultimately gives greater purpose to people like Sandoval, while easing the staffing shortage within the department, for now, as Phoenix PD continually works to recruit.

"It's an amazing job, it's an amazing opportunity to help out the police department and help your community in solving crimes and solving cases," Sandoval said.

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