USA Today has a report on how some police departments are using civilian employees -- "field service officers" -- to take reports on low-level incidents, such as fender-benders and property damage. They say it frees sworn officers to respond to the really serious situations. And civilian employees tend to work cheaper than full police officers.
The FOP says, yes, there are some cases where civilian workers can be a big help. But they note that even "routine calls" can become something very serious, very quickly. Someone who gets into a fender-bender, for example, might actually be a bank robber.