Tuscon's Mayor Regina Romero’s security detail will shrink under a Police Department plan to address a staffing shortage by no longer sending officers to non-urgent calls, reported Arizona Daily Star.
Two full-time members of the team that protects the mayor
will return to patrolling the streets when Romero is not at high risk of harm —
one of nearly 20 “critical changes” Tucson’s police chief said are necessary to
cope with the department’s chronic staffing shortage.
Calls TPD will no longer handle include reports of
non-criminal homeless activity on public property, minor noise complaints,
panhandling, requests for welfare checks and suicidal subjects who are not a
threat to others.
Many of those calls will go instead to mobile crisis teams,
which are staffed with specialists in mental health, substance abuse or
homeless outreach and are funded by state and federal tax dollars.
TPD will continue to respond to calls of any type that
involve violence, large, disruptive gatherings or an immediate threat to public
safety, Police Chief Chris Magnus said.
The transfer of some police calls to support services is in
line with public sentiment favoring a non-police response in non-violent
situations, Magnus said. And it’s necessary to ensure enough patrol officers are
available to respond to serious threats, he said.
TPD already isn’t responding to many lower-priority calls
due to its officer shortage, Magnus said.
“The reality is some of these calls are holding all night.
If you call us at 9 p.m. saying your neighbor’s stereo is too loud and we can’t
get there until seven the next morning, why are we even going?” he asked
Some of the other call types to be phased out over time
- Reports of contraband at schools, hospitals and courts (except firearms.)
- Deaths at medical care facilities.
- Requests for rides to places such as homeless shelters or addiction treatment facilities.
- Reports of city bylaw violations.
- Financial crimes.
Magnus released the new plan internally last week and has
faced questions about whether he did so to pressure city leaders to approve a
multi-million-dollar pay raise for his officers.
The chief rejects the suggestion he is trying to force the
council’s hand. There’s no need for pressure tactics, he said, because city
leaders already know what’s at stake if police officers continue to quit and go
elsewhere at the rate they have been.
“I believe they are taking it seriously,” the chief said of
his recent presentation to council, which cited a recent study that found TPD
officers make an average 13.4% less than surrounding police agencies. It would
cost about $10 million a year to make TPD pay rates competitive, he said.
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