Like most major cities around the country, Phoenix is made up of a diverse population, including ethnically, socioeconomically, and philosophically. But there is one thing that everyone can seem to agree on: the need for a stronger police presence on our city streets.
The city has struggled with budget limitations for the last five or more years, and one area that remains affected—despite city officials doing their best to limit financial cuts to it—is the Phoenix Police Department. Because of a six-year hiring freeze, vacant positions were left unfilled and patrol officers were pulled off the street to serve other duties, leaving response times up and citizens feeling more dissatisfied with their city and law enforcement officials.
“As chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee, I listened closely to residents at last year’s budget hearings concerned about police staffing,” said City Councilman Michael Nowakowski. “Among residents’ No. 1 concern was the need for more officers patrolling our streets and faster response times.”
In May 2015, the Phoenix City Council voted on a multi-year hiring plan to add more officers. Those numbers have been slowly but steadily increasing, with the city now boasting approximately 2,890 sworn officers and authorized to increase that number to 3,125.
“Since we started with our new police staffing plan, we’ve added 380 officers, and we are authorized to hire an additional 200 this fiscal year,” Nowakowski said. “This will provide our officers even more support as they work every day to keep our streets safe.”
In addition, the new Phoenix Police Chief, Jerry Williams, also is making strong efforts to put more “boots on the ground.”
“After [a short time] as the Phoenix police chief, I am moving to improve first responder functions,” Williams said. “This means reallocating approximately 170 positions to patrol services. This is necessary to ensure both community and officer safety.
“This plan is a delicate balance of utilizing officers and detectives from the entire department while minimizing impact to other workgroups,” Williams explained. “The goal is to ensure we maintain expected levels of service to the community and improve response times.”
Williams added that Community Action Officers (CAOs), who work most closely with residents regarding long-term neighborhood solutions, will not be re-assigned as their current roles directly support the department’s patrol mission and community policing programs. However, some units within the department could be dissolved altogether as officers get shifted. The reassignments are slated to begin in Feburary.
“I can assure you we are doing everything we can to protect our residents, protect our officers, and maintain our healthy police department within our resources,” Williams said. “The mayor, city council and city manager have consistently provided support to ensure we hold true to our mission, ‘to serve, protect, and reduce crime in Phoenix while treating everyone with dignity and respect’.”
In the meantime, the city continues its efforts to hire more police officers, but it is a long process. “Keep in mind that from time of application until a recruit is solo qualified is just over one year,” pointed out Sgt. Jonathan Howard, part of the Phoenix Police Department’s Public Affairs Bureau. “The police academy, a joint operation serving agencies statewide, also has capacity limitations that require careful planning and hiring dates.
“Our Employment Services Bureau is hiring as quickly as possible while maintaining the high standards that have historically been the expectation of the Phoenix Police Department,” Howard added.
Potential recruits must first pass a written exam. Exams are offered monthly through June. The next exam date is 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20. To view the minimum qualifications and apply online, visit www.phoenix.gov/police.