TUCSON – The Tucson Police Department is looking for more than a few good men and women.
Police Captain John Carlson told the News 4 Tucson Investigators the department has about two hundred fewer officers now than before the 2008 recession. “The City of Tucson, like other cities after the economy went down, fiscally we had to reduce numbers,” Carlson said.
There have been cutbacks, retirements and officers leaving to go to other higher-paying law enforcement agencies.
We asked Carlson about the impact the shortage of officers has on the public. “I believe that the average citizen is not going to be impacted or notice on emergency calls, he said. “Certainly, for lower priority calls, I do believe that the citizen is impacted. We’re very much aware of that.”
The department is trying to do more with less. For example, officers no longer respond to what TPD considers lower priority calls.
“Let’s say somebody is breaking into a car and the suspect is gone. So there may be a longer wait for that. So the citizen is going to notice that yes, it is a lower priority and the officers are going to take a longer time to get there,” Carlson said.
Also, police don’t respond to traffic accidents unless there’s an injury or resulting traffic delays. Carlson says the department has made it easier for the public to report crimes, both online and at sub-stations that are now open until 10 p.m. seven days a week. And, as we reported recently, Community Service Officers, who are paid less than police, are patrolling city parks. Carlson said, “We all want to get to a point where people don’t wait for calls for service even the lower priority calls”
The News 4 Tucson Investigators research of annual starting salaries at local police departments found that the perception that TPD cops make a lot less than others is not the reality. The annual starting pay for a TPD officer is $47,132. Oro Valley’s is $49,086; Marana, $48,149; State Troopers with The Department of Public Safety start at $46,988; Pima County Sheriff’s Department deputies start at $43,368 but make $48,889 after the18-month probationary period. The starting salary at TPD is higher than Sahuarita’s of $45,760.
Jim Parks, the Executive Director of the police union AZCOPS, blames the shortage in great part over what he calls a “lack of leadership” in TPD. Parks says many officers are frustrated and that morale is extremely bad within TPD.
Captain Carlson disagrees.
“I actually think the morale is better than it’s been in several years. I don’t see morale being a huge issue,” Carlson said.
City Council last year approved pay raises of 15 percent for experienced cops and set aside $3.26 million for retaining officers.
Officer David Schneider heads up TPD recruiting. He said, “We’ve seen application numbers increase over the last several processes and it traces back even the last couple of years.”
Carlson says TPD’s goal is to hire 20 more officers every year for the next four years. Here is the link to more information on how to apply to become a TPD officer.
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