Is low police staffing bigger safety risk than solo patrol in Phoenix?

Posted at 10:35 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 07:32:10-04

In the wake of officers being gunned down in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Milwaukee in recent weeks some departments are switching from solo patrol to teams across the board.

In Phoenix, that solution isn't going to happen anytime soon because the numbers just aren't there. The Phoenix Police Department is short 600 people.

The Police Law Enforcement Association said that, right now, two-man patrol teams are a luxury in the city, as some squads are operating at 50 percent staffing levels.

PLEA President Ken Crane said riding tandem would be safer for officers and that many would even prefer it.

"You've got an extra set of eyes in the car, you've got your backup built in with you,” Crane said.

But at current staffing levels, calls to 911 would get a slower response, he said.

"It's unsafe for officers patrolling and doing the job and it's also not safe for citizens,” Crane said.

Another issue causing gaps in staffing is that more officers are retiring early because of police-targeted violence.

"They see what's going on nationally and say, ‘I’m done. I’m done. I’m out of here,’" Crane said.

The department is playing catch-up with recruiting. Officials estimate that it'll take a year to implement two-man patrols.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said there is an effort to add more diversity to the department, but they’re not reaching that goal because of a lack of applicants and because recruits are not making the cut.