We are losing more officers than we can hire. And your safety is being put at risk. Our elected officials must stand up for our cops against the wave of politically (and financially) motivated attacks being orchestrated by extreme progressive, anti-police organizations.
Police officers are some of the best people I know, and the current attacks on them across this country are vile, and horribly counterproductive. We’re seeing the results. Homicides and violent crime are up everywhere, even here. So are all the various minor crimes – many of which no longer even get reported, much less prosecuted, because the criminal justice system has been perverted by extremists who believe that the law should not apply to certain groups. Officers are retiring, or simply quitting the force, in droves. Hiring is not keeping up. Phoenix has hundreds fewer officers than we did 20 years ago, with a population that has doubled, and a landmass that due to annexations keeps getting bigger. We currently have only about 2800 sworn police officers in our city. Comparable cities like Philadelphia and Houston have almost twice that many. Ahwatukee, for example, has about the same population and land-mass as Flagstaff. Flagstaff has 118 sworn officers, and 51 support personnel. Most days, Ahwatukee has two cops – total.
We need to hire hundreds of new officers, and the applicants simply aren’t there to allow us to do it. A lot of that falls on the current anti-police climate among inner city activists and politicians. These attacks on our cops are putting you and your family at risk, and that’s unacceptable. Do police make mistakes? Sometimes deadly mistakes? Absolutely. And when that happens, they need to be held accountable – and they are, and have been. Chief Jeri Williams has done a very good job of enforcing discipline and holding her officers accountable, there are already multiple levels of civilian review involved in every police use-of-force incident, our officers all wear body-cams, and we have increased training on de-escalation, dealing with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, and more. None of this has satisfied the protesters who routinely show up at Council meetings to call our cops rapists, murderers, and Nazis. And nothing will. Whatever we do, they’ll keep pushing for more. Many are paid activists, and this is their job. Others have been brainwashed from a young age to hate cops. Some are simply mad that they or a family member got arrested at one time or another. So, what do we do?
First, officers need to know they have the support of their elected leaders, not continue to be attacked and denigrated by them.
Second, we need to increase pay and benefits, including bringing back a sustainable DROP program to encourage officers to remain on the force longer.
Third, we need to get rid of the anti-police activist led Office of Accountability and Transparency. Yes, this sounds like a good idea - no one should be against accountability and transparency, after all. But a board made up of dedicated anti-police activists, whose stated goal is the defunding of our police department, is a suicide pact for our city.
Fourth, we need to protect and maintain qualified immunity. When the goal of the anti-policing movement is the abolition of police, giving them a tool to file one frivolous lawsuit after another that individual officers have to pay out of their own pockets to defend themselves against, is crazy. These activists will absolutely make it too expensive for anyone to ever become a cop – which is exactly what they want. Qualified immunity allows officers to do their jobs without fear of unjust retaliation, and is critical to ensuring we will at least have a shot to hire and retain enough officers to protect our city going forward.
Fifth, increase training in de-escalation techniques, as well as hand-to-hand fighting and control methods to expand the options officers have when faced with a potentially lethal situation.
Sixth, expand the Community Action Officer program, which is our most effective engagement tool with communities throughout our city.
Seventh, increase resources statewide for our judicial system, and significantly shorten the timeline so that cases can be resolved in a reasonable period, and not stretch out for years. These delays reduce community trust and limit the transparency of the department, as many details about cases cannot be legally disclosed until the case has been fully adjudicated.
Eighth, vastly speed up the process for fulfilling public records requests. This can largely be done electronically.
Lastly, expand police support services, including hiring more 911 operators, and increasing our civilian reserve officer program.
I will say one final word on this, and that is: the people who will suffer the most from the demoralization and diminishment of our police are not the wealthy folks living in nice areas. They can afford gates, cameras, even private security guards. The people who will suffer the most are in poor and working-class areas, where crime is already out of control, and who can’t afford the same levels of personal security.