Phoenix officers are paying the price of anti-police rhetoric. So are residents.
Britt London, President of PLEA – opinion contributor, AZ Central March 29, 2022.
Words matter. They impact behavior and how we treat others within our community.
In recent years we’ve seen an increase in anti-police rhetoric and efforts to reduce funding for the Phoenix Police Department from members of the Phoenix City Council.
Even though this anti-police agenda has made some elected officials popular among activist organizations, this behavior has real world implications for the daily lives of Phoenix residents, officers and their families.
In 2021, there were 1,127 reported cases of officer assaults with a weapon resulting from encounters with suspects, a nearly 30% increase from 2011 (878). Unfortunately, this trend has been increasing each year as political rhetoric and hostility toward police nationwide has escalated.
The men and women of the Phoenix Police Department continue to put their lives at risk for the community each day – even as elected leaders and community activists continue to spew anti-police rhetoric at any opportunity.
This needs to stop.
Crime, response times are up, yet staffing is down
While none of our officers have been killed this year, violent crime continues to increase in Phoenix. Over the past decade the number of homicides has increased by 61%, rapes have increased more than 100% and aggravated assaults have skyrocketed by 120%.
Since 2011, response times for Priority 1 calls, for life-threatening emergencies and crimes in progress, such as assaults and armed robbery, have risen by more than 2 minutes – to an average of 7 minutes 20 seconds – yet our staffing numbers have remained stagnant with no real plan in place to address this crisis.
Rather than provide the Phoenix Police Department with the resources and staffing, we find ourselves sending investigators to street patrol. This approach will have a devastating impact on our ability to conduct investigations and protect crime victims.
Our association has been telling the Phoenix City Council and the public for years that we were approaching a public safety crisis, and those warnings are continuously being ignored. Now we find ourselves with a significant workforce shortage, dwindling resources and uncompetitive pay for our officers.
We are losing officers each month due to retirements and burnout. Currently, there are 793 sworn officers eligible to retire today; over the next five years that number jumps to nearly 1,400. These numbers reflect current officers that will leave the field due to retirement and does not take into account existing vacancies, resignations and additional personnel needed to properly run the Phoenix Police Department.
Phoenix must address police pay, vacancies
The trajectory is unsustainable and can no longer be ignored by city leadership.
As an initial start, the city needs to increase the hourly wage significantly to attract and retain police officers. Considering the amount of work and increased risk Phoenix police officers are subjected to, they should be the highest paid in the state, and not just by a few pennies.
This would allow the department to recruit the most talented and qualified, and help retain officers that the city has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in. Phoenix residents demand and deserve a well-resourced and staffed police department.
According to a recent poll by OH Predictive Insights, after being given data on crime, staffing and 911 response time, 84% of Phoenix voters believe the lack of police officers is a problem and 62% of voters believe the mayor and city council are to be blamed. Nearly two-thirds of Phoenix voters (62%) say Phoenix would be safer with more police.
Voters clearly want the Phoenix City Council to direct more funding to the Phoenix Police Department to keep residents safe.
Progressive organizations and elected leaders who continue to push anti-police rhetoric need to wake up and see the negative impact their behavior is having. It is time for leaders to stand up and publicly support our officers.
We must invest in our public safety infrastructure now; our future depends on it.
Michael Britt London is president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter:@mbrittlondon.