Former flight attendant Melody Lilliston can deliver even grim news with a sweet voice, a calm manner, and a smile that makes everything seem OK. That comes in handy in her new job–a Fort Lauderdale Police Department public safety aide — PSA for short, says the Miami Herald. She is one of about 40 in Fort Lauderdale and hundreds around South Florida.
PSAs don’t get much attention. They are not sworn officers, and cannot carry firearms. They aren’t tracked by state law-enforcement regulators, and in some cities they go by different names, such as public service aides or community service aides. No matter what they are called, they are the ones who take care of the little things — the minor car crashes, the missing wallets, and the stolen bicycles — that make up so many calls to police. For some, being a PSA is a steppingstone into a law-enforcement career. Others come into it as a second career and stay for years. ”They’re the grunts,” said Tom Hood, director of training at Miami Dade College’s School of Justice. “They’re handling a lot of the grunt work that a lot of cops don’t want to do. But they serve a very valuable purpose.”