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An Analysis of the City of San Jose’s Community Service Officer Program

Dev Davis
Connie Huynh
Wendy Sov
Lucy Xiao
Office of Mayor Sam Liccardo, City of San Jose

In July 2014, the City of San Jose initiated a Community Service Officer (CSO) program to fill staffing gaps that emerged as a consequence of significant budget problems and a shrinking police force. In doing so, the City joined numerous jurisdictions around the U.S. that have implemented CSO programs in recent years.  Despite the proliferation of CSO programs, however, limited research has been conducted on the actual effects of CSOs on policing efficiency and effectiveness or common practices with regards to CSO duties. 

This project provides the City of San Jose with the following:

  • Comparison of the duties of CSOs in San Jose with CSO duties in other California jurisdictions.
  • Information about how cities across California design and implement their CSO programs and how their programs fit into each jurisdiction’s police departments. 
  • Factors that contribute to the success of CSO programs in other California cities.
  • Alterations that San Jose may consider making to its own CSO program based on these commonly cited practices.

To achieve these objectives, we distributed a survey to the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) and the California State Sheriffs Association (CSSA) to gain a deeper understanding of other cities’ CSO programs. After collecting these survey responses, we analyzed the results and conducted phone interviews to follow up with 13 selected California police departments that deploy CSO programs. We then extracted common practices from this qualitative approach. We also examined computer‐aided dispatch (CAD) data and aggregated statistics on CSO response to service calls provided by the City of San Jose to estimate the potential impact of expanded CSO duties in San Jose.

Research Findings:

We received a total of 149 responses out of the 387 CPCA and CSSA departments that received our survey, for an overall response rate of 39 percent. Eighty‐four percent of respondents have implemented a CSO program

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