SASKATOON -- Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) has sworn in five Alternative Response Officers as a new tier of public safety service.

“By providing a supporting role to enforcement and investigative support they will increase the availability of regular police officers to respond to calls for service,” SPS said in a news release.

The officers are now officially walking the beat, facilitating outreach and referral services and helping regular patrol officers and members of the traffic division, police say.

They look different than regular officers, with grey shirts, special constable patches and a distinctly marked vehicle.

Police say the development of the program was a multi-year process which included a community needs assessment.

Funding was earmarked in the 2021 SPS budget.