Phoenix union wants public vote on police staffing levels

PHOENIX - The Phoenix police rank-and-file union plans to file an initiative this week that would let city residents vote on officer staffing levels for the city.

The ABC15 Investigators obtained a draft copy of the initiative from city sources.

The initiative would require thousands of signatures in order to be placed on the ballot. The ABC15 Investigators have learned that the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, or PLEA, plans to hire a firm to help collect the necessary signatures.

Read a copy of the initiative

Over a four-year period, the initiative gradually increases mandatory staffing levels for every shift. By the fourth year, there would be 25 percent more officers on the street at a given time.

As written, the initiative would not necessarily require the department to hire all new officers. The increase in staffing could also be accomplished through overtime.

PLEA President Joe Clure said his union has scheduled a press conference for Monday to discuss the initiative. Clure is reserving comment until then.

The city has not hired a new class of police officers since 2009. The department is currently down more than 500 sworn officer positions.

“We’re low, there’s no question we’re low,” Clure said in a recent interview with ABC15.

One month ago, an ABC15 investigation showed that Phoenix falls below almost every major U.S. city in officer-to-population ratio. We also discovered that violent crime, response times and officer-involved shootings have risen in recent years as the number of officers has dwindled.

City Manager Ed Zuercher said that new academy classes of officers won’t be hired until late 2015 or early 2016 at the earliest.

The shortage of officers appears to be straining the police department’s resources.

In a recent internal memo, Police Chief Daniel Garcia wrote that the department is creating a plan to address shortages when shift staffing levels falls below acceptable standards.

The memo also shows that the department could shutter the Maryvale and Central City precincts because they can’t consistently staff squads. The department is also researching their “officer per 1,000 population.”

PLEA told ABC15 that for a recent shift in Maryvale, one squad had only two officers on shift. The normal staffing is at least six.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com .

 

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