Phoenix Police staffing currently sits at 2,859 sworn personnel. To re-cap, City Manager Ed Zuercher previously set a goal for the department to be staffed up to a level of 3,125 sworn by July of 2018. He also settled on 3,125, not because it’s what we is needed to properly staff the department, but because “Its’ what we can afford.” Keep in mind that 3,125 officers is approximately 260 fewer sworn officers than we had in 2008, one decade ago, when the City stopped hiring police officers to save money. Phoenix recently surpassed Philadelphia as the 5th largest city in the country and has been declared the fastest growing city in the country. If you drive around our 530 square miles of real estate, you will see plenty of new development where there was raw desert or farmland and a large number of redevelopment and infill projects in other parts of the city, including massive projects in and around the Downtown area, which will spur a huge population growth.
Well, July has come and gone and we are still 266 short of the 3,125 target goal.
More importantly, for a city the size of Phoenix, we should be staffing at a ratio of 2.5 officers per 1000 citizens. This would translate into a total sworn force of about 4,200.
To be generous, lets knock 200 off that and go with a round number of 4,000 sworn. In comparison to where we are right now, that still leaves us 1,141 officers short.
In July of 2017, PD staffing was 2,792. We are at now at 2,859 which translates to a net gain of 67 officers in a span of 13 months. That’s an average of five officers per month through the pipeline.
At current hiring rates it would take 228 months to bring staffing up to 4,000 sworn. That’s 19 years. Let that sink in for a minute. To say our current hiring model is broken is an understatement. When funds for out of state recruiting have been cut off and you have sunk to the point of recruiting at Goodwill centers… Well, you can draw your own conclusions on that one.
Its time for Police Management and City leaders to get off the dime and get serious about police staffing. PLEA has made the following points in the past but they bear repeating:
- It’s no secret public safety is expensive. It’s the job of the Mayor and Council to find the necessary funds to properly staff the public safety machine yet, time and again they have chosen to ignore the crisis in front of their faces and kick the can down the road.
- Lack of funding and concerns over racial demographics have crippled the hiring process. When ethnicity takes precedence over qualifications, it can create a throttling effect slowing the movement of otherwise qualified applicants through the process.
- Money needs to be made available for out of state recruiting and we need to be aggressively recruiting at military bases.
- If it’s demographics you want, The military is a virtual melting pot of society. There is an amazing cultural cross-section in the citizen soldiers coming out of the various branches of our military.
- Approximately 700 officers, almost 1/3 of the department, could retire tomorrow if they wanted.
- A decade of continual pay and benefits cuts combined with a spike in public attacks against police have contributed to huge declines in morale.
- Short staffing contributes to serious officer safety concerns as well as the increase we are seeing in officer involved shootings.
- A police department that is in crisis and plagued with morale issues means many officers don’t see the value in staying around any longer than they absolutely have to.
- More and more are looking for the exits, which further exacerbates the staffing problem.
A city government that stops hiring for over six years, that stands by while bodies pour out the doors leaving public safety dangerously crippled, is negligent and could be viewed by many as a form of malfeasance.
Cops are placed in danger by being forced to do more with less often responding on calls with high violence potential without adequate backup resulting in a domino effect that, in turn, translates into lack of proper service to citizens putting them at increased risk.