SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco police officials will soon use civilians, not officers, to investigate nonviolent crimes.

The $955,000 pilot program is scheduled to begin in January. Police Chief George Gascon says the department will train 15 civilians to interview victims and witnesses, write reports, take crime scene photos and collect fingerprint and DNA evidence.

They will only be dispatched to nonviolent crime scenes such as burglaries.

Gascon says the civilians will cost less money than uniformed officers. They are also expected to free up officers to investigate crimes in progress and dangerous offenders.

But the police union says the plan is misguided.

Gary Delagnes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, says evidence collected by civilians might not stand up in court.