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Green Bay Police to expand internship program

James Taylor, News Writer
December 4, 2012
Filed under News

The Green Bay Police Department will add five more interns to its Community Service Intern program, nearly doubling its numbers to a total of 12.

Community Service Interns, known as CSIs, are students pursuing careers in law enforcement. Students from UW-Green Bay, St. Norbert’s College and Northeast Technical College have taken part in the program and gained experience assisting Green Bay community members.

CSIs assist in non-conflict calls such as media relations, translating and alerting homeowners to burglary threats.

Jerry Wiezbiskie, Green Bay alderman of District 1, feels expanding the CSI program is good for the GBPD and the city’s bottom line.

“These students and what they do for our community are a tremendous asset to the city,” Wiezbiskie said. “They perform low-risk duties and allow fully-trained police officers to continue the great work they already do.”

The CSIs earn $10 per hour and will cost the city an estimated $52,000.

Allowing interns to assist in minor duties allows regular patrol officers to handle more serious issues while cutting costs, Wiezbiskie said.

Interns also attend homeowner association meetings and work as liaison between law enforcement and community members.

Cheryl Renier-Wigg, Green Bay Neighborhood Development Supervisor, has only received positive feedback from community members about the interns.

“I’ve only heard good things about the interns. They’re a great group,” Renier-Wigg said. “Assisting motorists, answering questions and providing service during elections has highlighted the success of the program.”

Expanding the number of interns is coming at a time when budgeting for law enforcement is tightening in Green Bay. Police funding will be cut by nearly $200,000, according to city documents.

Prior to the new batch of CSIs, the program was entirely funded by grants offered by the Green Bay Leadership Council. The proposed expansion would mark the first time the city budget would include funding for the CSI program.

Giving more opportunities to aspiring law enforcement personnel is an important aspect of this year’s city budget, Renier-Wigg said.

“Four current GBPD officers started their careers as CSIs,” Renier-Wigg said. “If you want a career in law enforcement, this is a great opportunity to get a feel for the job.”

CSIs can be seen throughout Green Bay wearing yellow t-shirts with the letters CSI in bold print on the back.

The interns are not armed and don’t have authority to arrest criminal suspects.

If a resident is uncomfortable with resolving issues with an intern, sworn-in officers can be requested.

Kathy Lafebvre, former East Shore Drive Neighborhood Association president, enjoyed having CSIs attend homeowner meetings.

“It was great to have someone there to listen to our concerns,” Lafebvre said. “I thought it was such a good service. They get to start their careers and provide community outreach and public relations for the police department.”

Although the CSI program has provided an opportunity for students to acquire needed skills for a future in law enforcement, it also reduces workload for current police officers.

This has created a rift between the police union and the city.

Mayor Jim Schmitt’s budget proposal for 2013 would temporarily reduce GBPD officer positions from 186 to 182. This, combined with an increase in CSIs, may be a point of contention during ongoing labor negotiations between the police union and city officials.

Despite possible disputes between union leaders and city officials, Wiezbiskie is certain the previous success of the CSI program, combined with ongoing positive community feedback, will lead to continued support for the program on both sides.

“They’re really just an extension of the police department,” said Wiezbiskie. “The additional manpower provided by the interns has only received positive support.”

UWGB students interested in acquiring a CSI position must carry at least nine credits and be declared in a major related to law enforcement, such as democracy and justice studies, social work or another related field.