City of Phoenix considering adding more police assistants

Posted at 10:30 PM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-19 01:30:49-04

You see the lights, hear the sirens, and spot the badge, but the person responding when you call for help may not be an actual police officer.

"People are going to see maybe a different person arrive, maybe in a different uniform," explained Phoenix Police Department Sgt. John Howard.

Sgt. Howard is referencing the department's police assistant program. Right now, there are 122 on the Phoenix force. But the department would like to see an addition 16 on the force later this year with an expanded list of duties.

"They're responding to low risk calls where there's no possibility that the suspects are still present or there's any immediate follow-up," Sgt. Howard said.

Those low-risk calls could include thefts, burglaries, minor crashes and forgery reports.

So, what's the difference between an assistant and an officer?

Only officers would respond to emergencies, and assistants cannot make arrests or carry guns. What really helps the department is on the bottom line: assistants cost about half as much as full officers.

Not everyone is thrilled with the news.

"It's better than a poke in the eye with sharp stick," says Ken Crane, a Phoenix police officer and president of PLEA, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association--a union representing most of the rank-and-file officers in the department. "Is it going to help? Sure. Are we grateful for any help? Absolutely. But it's really a drop in the bucket solution."

Crane would like to see more done about the city's deficit of several hundred law enforcement officers. In December, top department officials announced 170 officers would be moved from specialty units to patrol in an effort to bolster the number of officers on the street amid the staffing shortage.

Expanding the number of police assistants isn't a done deal just yet. The city council still needs to vote on the program. If you'd like to weigh in, you can head to a budget hearing Wednesday night at the Paradise Valley Community Center starting at 6 p.m.

For more information on how to apply for jobs at the Phoenix Police Department, click here.