Phoenix Police reassigning over 100 officers to patrol positions due to staff shortages

Citing ongoing staffing shortages, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams has announced that the department will reassign 108 officers to patrol positions.

Williams says personnel from specialty details will move to the patrol roles, raising the patrol total to about 1,200 officers.

The Cactus Park Precinct in north Phoenix will be getting 41 reassigned officers, pushing that patrol total to 200. That precinct serves about 188,000 residents. The Maryvale/Estrella Precinct will add 17 officers to its 230-person patrol team.

In addition to reassigning officers to patrol, the department will also convert some positions to civilian status. As an example, non-sworn employees will be used to assist detectives, now that caseloads will start piling up.

"That’s going to mean there are more cases, more victims, and that’s going to mean the time it will take to complete those investigations will increase," said Phoenix Police Executive Assistant Chief Michael Kurtenbach.

Currently, there are twice as many officers leaving the department than there are people looking to join the force. The department is short over 400 officers, which is the equivalent to shutting down two entire police precincts.

"We had 274 officers separate from the department last year, we hired 71. Of the 71 we hired, only 58 remain.," said Kurtenbach. 

Williams says the police department's response time for emergency calls is longer than the community expects. She also says this past year saw an increase of nearly 10% in priority one or emergency calls.

"Bottom line is when someone calls 911, they have an expectation that an officer is going to respond," said Kurtenbach. "I’ve been on long enough when our goal was 5 minutes, and right now, our response times for priority one calls is over seven minutes. That’s unacceptable."

The department is still offering a $7,500 hiring bonus, and a $7,500 retention bonus being offered to help lure and keep officers. There is a goal to reach full staffing, considered to be 3,125 sworn officers.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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