TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Police Department is facing its lowest staffing levels in decades.
“We are really losing officers at a really significant rate. Each month we lose about one percent of the force, which means 12 percent a year. We’re only gaining six percent through academies,” said Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus at this week’s city council meeting.
Chief Magnus said the department lost five officers in the first week of April. TPD has 747 deployable officers but is funded for 884 positions. If the department continues on this track, he said it will have 707 officers during this time next year. He said the TPD has 14 people in its academy, but would typically have nearly 50 going through training.
Recruiting officers is a major focus in the 2022 fiscal year budget priorities. Chief Magnus said he hopes to spend half a million dollars towards marketing efforts. He also wants to bring on more community safety officers who can respond to less critical calls.
“Community safety officers have been taking some of the burden off of the shoulders from police officers to deal with some of these issues,” said Mayor Regina Romero.
TPD is looking to hire about 30 more community safety officers.
“These are the folks who are often going to burglaries, processing scenes, handling traffic situations that we would never have the resources to handle otherwise,” Chief Magnus said.
Despite the staffing shortage, he said critical calls remain a priority.
“Where it counts the most for priority-one calls, if there’s a crime in progress, someone is getting hurt. Our response time continues to be one of the best for cities our size in the nation. It’s five minutes or less,” Chief Magnus said.
Mayor Romero said the city’s new community safety program will work hand-in-hand with TPD and act as an alternative in some situations.
“Part of the thought is to unload some of the burden from police officers and redirect it to prevention programs,” Mayor Romero said.
The community safety program will connect local agencies and hire social workers to address mental health and homelessness in our community. Mayor Romero said the city plans to spend six to nine months working on community engagement and developing the program.