As you have seen in our numerous web and Facebook posts, PLEA has been sounding the alarm regarding the Phoenix Police Department’s staffing levels for years.
On December 6, 2016, PLEA held a press conference to address the staffing issue and in the following weeks, reached out to and met with the City Manager, Mayor, and every member of the City Council to see where they stood.
During a meeting with City Manager Ed Zuercher, he told us that the City’s plan was to get our total sworn staffing level up to 3,175 by July 1, 2018. When it was pointed out that 3,175 was 260 fewer officers than what we had in 2008, yet the City has seen exponential growth since then, we were told that 3,175 was “what we could afford.”
Public Safety is the first and foremost responsibility of any government entity, and accounts for the majority of any city’s budget, yet the City of Phoenix continually pits Police and Fire against all other services. The citizens demand a professional and highly trained police department and unfortunately, this costs money. In order to attract the most highly qualified candidates, you have to offer a competitive salary and benefits package. In order to retain qualified personnel, you have to offer a reasonable work environment along with incentives to include regular pay and benefit increases. Unfortunately, since City leadership chose to balance the budget on the backs of City employees, we’ve endured a decade of concessions and no pay raises, continuing to do more with less.
The City blames a lot of this on Pension Debt, but instead of trying to pay it down, they have continually kicked that can down the road and recently chose to reammortize the debt by extending it out to a 30 year plan.
While some members of the City Council say that the City has the money to do what’s necessary, the City Manager and Budget Director continually cry poverty.
Phoenix is now the 5th largest and fastest growing city in the country and anyone who has driven around the Downtown area can clearly see that development has exploded with new construction of high rises and multifamily housing, as well as renovations and restorations of older properties. We are also seeing a number of infill projects throughout the City as well as massive new housing developments and multifamily apartment complexes being built in parts of the City where raw land is available, such as in the Desert Ridge and Norterra Communities.
What it comes down to is the mayor and City Council have the ability to assess fees and levy taxes to properly fund Public Safety, but nobody has the courage to take those steps to ensure we have sufficient staffing and infrastructure to provide top-notch police services for the residents who are directly impacted by insufficient staffing levels.
PLEA President Ken Crane addressed the City Council at their Policy Meeting on October 2, 2018.