Attracting and keeping police officers gets some brainstorming on Tucson City Council

From bringing back retirees to giving school safety officers more authority, the council is thinking outside the box
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 7:29 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - As police recruitment heats up, so does the creativity of departments across southern Arizona. Officers have choices between larger cities like Tucson and smaller communities like Sahuarita.

The town makes its efforts obvious: a construction matrix sign on Sahuarita Road, east of I-19, tells motorists, “Now hiring police officers.”

“They’re a sought-after commodity and they can make choices on where they want to work,” said Sahuarita Police Chief John Nolan.

“We have to be talking open about it and having good conversations about maximizing our resources,” said Tucson City Council Member Paul Cunningham, who introduced the discussion to the council’s study session on June 6th.

The Tucson City Council’s study session explored how to bring back retired officers without disrupting their pension and how to give school safety officers more authority and reduce patrol officer workload, all to help officers focus on policing.

“I hope it does. That would be a question for police officers but I believe that if they know that we’ve got their back and that we’re working hard to help them do their jobs better, hopefully that will increase their enthusiasm,” Cunningham said.

“It absolutely does. Otherwise we have to pull from patrol to respond to the school call,” Chief Nolan explained about how similarly-functioning school resource officers assist Sahuarita Police in that community.

But also part of the conversation in Tucson is how to incentivize officers to come from other towns to Tucson. In Sahuarita, they know they can improve officers’ work environment, but applicants will still look at the bottom line.

“Salary is not the only thing but it is very critical to capturing those few that can do the job of policing,” Chief Nolan explained.

“The discussion about pay is ongoing. That’s in any department in any part of the city. That stuff is easy for politicians. What we want to do is maximize some of our resources and procedures to give us the best response for the community we can,” Cunningham said.

Tucson Chief Chad Kasmar said that last year, 35 officers, each with more than 20 years of experience, retired, which was a total of 700 years of experience lost from the department.

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