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Phoenix Police May Not Respond to Certain Calls Due to Officer Shortage

December 31, 2021

By Corinne Murdock |

Phoenix Police Department (PPD) leadership informed city council that they may have to stop responding to certain 911 calls due to their shortage of police officers. PPD Chief Jeri Williams shared with the Public Safety and Justice Subcommittee at the start of this month that they haven’t made such a policy official yet, but may have to in order to offset the workload created by 370 vacancies. 

They had 27 recruits going through academy and 31 officers-in-training. PPD has 2,755 total officers. The fifth-largest city in the nation had over 1.6 million people according to the 2020 census — approximately 17 officers per 10,000 residents. 

The proposal was based on a study from Arizona State University (ASU). The university identified eleven call types: intrusion alarms, assisting fire departments with unruly patients, drug overdoses, loose animals, public marijuana smoking, civil matter stand-bys, abandoned vehicles, found property, minor vehicle crashes without injuries, illegal parking, and noise complaints. Williams suggested that the last six call types could be mitigated by civilian members or assistants and not PPD, and that public marijuna smoking calls were nullified with the legalization of marijuana. 

Williams suggested that eliminating police response to intrusion or false alarms, fire department assistance and/or check welfare calls, drug overdoses, and loose animals wouldn’t be good for public safety. PPD recorded 60,000 welfare calls and 552 drug overdose calls. 

Civil matter stand-by calls have to do with incidents like exchanges of children, roommate relationships, and merchant or customer relations. Williams reported that PPD received about 14,000 of civil matter stand-by calls annually, 10,000 abandoned vehicle calls, 3,200 found property calls, 26,000 minor vehicle accidents without injury calls, 10,000 minor vehicle hit-and-run, 6,200 illegal parking calls, and 14,000 noise complaint calls. 

Overall, Williams reported that PPD received 2 million calls in 2020 with 660,000 of those dispatched, and 1.8 million calls in 2021 with about 614,000 of those dispatched. 

“This is just preliminary information that we’re going through. We didn’t want you all or members of the public to be surprised by the types of calls we’re looking at. We’ve made no decisions on these whatsoever, we’re really just trying to introduce the topic and idea,” explained Williams. 

The second adjustment was PPD’s new “deferred patrol response” program where officers come into the station and work overtime by assisting with calls, taking reports, and handling paperwork. 

The third adjustment was changes to PPD’s dispatch protocol concerned changes to dispatch protocols.

In all, Williams touched on six different improvement efforts: in addition to call type reduction, deferred patrol response, and dispatch protocol changes, PPD has undertaken programs implementing civilianization, body worn cameras for all officers, and specialty back to patrol. PPD also introduced efforts to increase officer retention and morale, such as raises.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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