ONE YEAR IN: How Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar tackled staffing shortage

Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar said staffing levels continue to be a problem for his department.
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 8:19 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar jumped at the chance to take on the role.

After decades with the department, he felt he could hit the ground running.

But he knows he’s hit the point where the rubber meets the road.

Kasmar said he knows both the community and his staff are expecting more.

“The honeymoon is over,” Kasmar said. “The staff is being clear about that. The community has been clear about that.”

And the data is clear about what is working and what is not.

Violent crime dropped by 5%. That includes homicides, which hit a record high just as Kasmar took over.

Property crime is down 15% but gun violence jumped nearly 20%.

Kasmar spent the last year restructuring the department to get the most out of a limited staff.

In January 2022, the TPD was short 122 officers with 105 of those in patrol. The workload and overtime has been noted as a strain on the crew, which lead to even more attrition.

“It was what needed to occur last year,” he said. “We had to restructure the department. We went from four bureaus to five.”

Kasmar was brutally honest when asked if he has enough staff now.

“Do I have the number of officers I need to keep a community this size with the crime that we have? The answer is no. You don’t pay me to tell you no, you pay me to come up with solutions,” he said.

He said finding those solutions has involved breaking the status quo.

“Our traditional problems won’t be solved by doing the same old thing,” he said. “So that comes with investment in innovation. We’ve invested in the mental health and wellness of our officers.

“If our officers don’t feel well, aren’t equipped, supported, and prepared to do this really complex job in the community, then the community’s going to suffer.”

There’s another challenge that he had hoped would be resolved by now.

A year ago he said he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Pima County Attorney Laura Conover on how drug crimes are handled -- a major driver in the high crime rates.

That hasn’t changed.

“We need clear delineation on a simple drug possession case,” Kasmar said. “I need clear direction so I can get that to my staff so they understand the rules of engagement. That requires cooperation and conversation with Ms. Conover.”