PHOENIX - The Phoenix Police Department is about to go through a major restructuring as the chief announces plans to cut specialty details and re-assign more than 170 officers back to patrol duty.
Right now, the department is facing a major staffing shortage. They are about 260 officers short and citizens are waiting longer for help to arrive after they call 9-1-1.
The solution being put forth is to re-assign detectives and sergeants, take them off of their current specialty details and put them back on the streets.
Many officers are not happy about the upcoming changes.
"Our response time right now is about six minutes. We want to bring it down to at least five minutes," said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune.
That's the average time it takes for Phoenix Police to respond to a priority 9-1-1 call. Priority 3 calls, like a home burglary, take an average of 30 minutes. That's too high for the new police chief. The solution: moving more officers to the front lines.
"We want to make sure the numbers are adequate when we're responding to emergency calls. We want to make sure our officers are safe," said Fortune.
The latest assessment recommends reducing or disbanding 62 specialty details, removing 162 officers and 15 sergeants from their current positions and putting them back on patrol. For example, the entire fugitive apprehension investigative detail is being dismantled. Those 23 officers and sergeants will go back to patrol and their duties will be assumed by neighborhood enforcement team officers. That means, some detectives will assume more responsibilities.
"Now you're going to have a much bolstered patrol force, now start generating reports to go to where the detective detail you stripped manpower out of," said PLEA President, Ken Crane.
He says the plan could result in diminishing returns and put more stress on already overworked detectives. Phoenix Police say the moves are lateral and not demotions, but the changes will likely dampen the morale.
"It's devastating. In short, you do have a lot of people in this job who worked hard to get where they're at. They did their time in patrol, they competed and tested to get into these specialties," said Crane.
The re-assignments will go into effect in February.