FULL STATEMENTS: Peoria police union, city butt heads over crime stats, police response time

Posted at 10:23 PM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-28 07:42:37-04

Allegations of the sugarcoating of crime statistics has prompted the City of Peoria to release a rebuttal in the police chief’s defense.

The Peoria Police Officers Association claims Chief Roy Minter lied about the amount of crime in the city and the time it takes for officers to respond to crime scenes.

Statement from PPOA:

Recently, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Peoria City Council was treated to a rosy picture of public safety painted by the chief of police. For example, the chief told the council that the time it takes police to respond to crime only increased by a small amount and that crime is falling in the city. We sympathize with Chief Minter. After all, he only remains Chief at the pleasure of the council. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground refutes those claims. Cherry picking statistics to show only a small increase from one year to the next ignores the fact that response times are much worse than they used to be. The overall time it takes Police to respond to crime has increased by almost 35% from February of 2011 to March of 2016 (5:30 to 7:24 respectively). The figures are even worse for communities like Vistancia, where the time it takes for police to arrive has been as high as 13 minutes.

What about the claim that crime rates are dropping? In order to answer this question, it is important to know how crime statistics are created. Peoria has repeatedly altered how it measures and tracks crime, which makes the validity of the statistics Chief Minter is using unreliable and, frankly, questionable. Also, a crime is only measured if it is reported or detected by police. You get less crime in the statistics when you don't have enough officers to investigate crime; staffing problems directly impact the number of crimes that can be detected.

To demonstrate the point, the Peoria PD has not had anyone assigned to investigate reported child pornography since 2012. Multiple images provided by the Internet Crimes Against Children Phoenix office have sat on a desk without any investigation since 2012. These crimes against children didn't make the statistics only because there weren't enough officers to investigate and prevent them. Another example is the fact that officers have been directed not to investigate fraud under $10,000.

The heart of the issue is this: As the city grows, the Peoria PD needs to add a proportional increase in police officers. Tragically, the policies of this council have caused Peoria to be one of the worst cities for officer pay. The 12% increase in the Consumer Price Index since 2008 means that the two (2%) percent increase in officer pay is actually a decrease in their real take home pay. This is why officers have left, and are leaving, the city. In the last year, Peoria lost nine (9) officers with decades of experience to other cities, and others are currently trying to leave.

In direct contradiction to what Chief Minter said, the Peoria PD has over sixteen 16 vacancies for patrol staff and other specialized officer positions. Further, there are many other critical support positions which are still vacant. And if we use the benchmark of 1.5 officers per 1,000 people, that would require an additional 80 police officers for the city. These staffing vacancies have serious implications for the safety of the public. The shortage in officers has and will continue to lead to situations where there are only a few officers on duty in an area as large as Peoria north of Bell Road. Just one domestic violence call can tie up three (3) officers leaving the rest of North Peoria to be protected by only two (2) officers.

Add to these issues the national sentiment against police, the burn out of officers who cannot take vacations due to staffing shortages, expired safety equipment, reduced training, low morale and you have a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. In the age of terrorism, border drug gangs and the distrust of law and order, we cannot afford to put the safety of our city at risk because of the unwise decisions of the current City Council and city manager.

In a Peoria Times article, Chief Minter was quoted as saying, "The safety of Peoria's residents is taken seriously…" The City Council has made similar statements. Yet the City Council has spent millions of dollars on parks and other pet projects while the men and women who keep us safe are left behind. Recently the City Council has voted on a tax increase to fund more of these types of projects and no additional funding was included to address the multiple crises in the Peoria Police Department.

Chief Minter said, "Everybody is entitled to their right of freedom of speech…" Yet in the Peoria Police Department officers are concerned to speak out about all these issues because of retaliation. The expectation of the Peoria Police Officers Association is that the chief and council work rapidly to improve the safety of our community by coming to terms with the problems we face and work with us to address them. Please take a stand with us, the guardians of your community, by calling your city council representatives and ask them to sit down with us so we can begin solving these problems together.

City of Peoria rebuttal:

“Recently, the executive director of the Peoria Police Association (PPOA) released misleading information regarding the state of public safety in our community. This individual, who is their union's registered lobbyist, is not an employee of the City of Peoria.  It is important that we respond to serious allegations that may make our citizens feel unsafe. 

The claims put forward in the union statement are deceiving, and don't reflect conditions within the Peoria community. As the city has not received a public record request for the numbers the union leader is using, the city is not aware of the source for these claims. Instead, we encourage residents to utilize reliable and verifiable police statistics, such as are gathered annually as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

"To undermine the professionalism and accomplishments of our police department for political gain hurts all of us," said Mayor Cathy Carlat. "When it comes to public safety, there is no place for politically-charged rhetoric. Not only is it unfounded, in the current volatile environment it is irresponsible and dangerous."

"Chief Roy Minter, the command staff and our officers exercise the highest standards," said City Manager Carl Swenson. "Our Police leadership team's integrity, dedication and passion are directly reflected in the way they lead the agency. Chief Minter always makes himself available to discuss any matters of concern. His community policing strategies and innovative programs have resulted in numerous awards, and serve as a model nationwide."

Here are some important observations:

-           As reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program, over the last five years, major crimes per 1,000 residents in the City of Peoria has fallen 32% (2011-2016). All of these crimes are documented in individual police reports, and retained and available in accordance with public records laws.  The Peoria Police Department utilizes the same reporting standards and process as all other law enforcement agencies. 

-           From May 2015 to May 2016, the average response time to Priority One calls increased by 11 seconds. It is important to note that such increases of less than 30 seconds are not statistically significant for cities of our size.  Over the last five years, Peoria police data shows an increase of 1 minute and 18 seconds.

-           The union statement suggests the Peoria PD has child pornography cases "on a desk without any investigation since 2012."  In fact, all child pornography cases have been reviewed per department protocol.

-           The union statement suggests that certain fraud cases are not being investigated.  In fact, all fraud cases are reviewed per department protocol.

-           There are nine vacancies in the department (not the 16 noted in the union statement). These openings were created by various circumstances such as promotions, retirements, resignations and lateral transfers. To manage staffing levels, the department aggressively fills the vacancies on a consistent basis. Application numbers remain strong for both recruits and lateral transfers. Despite a number of retirements in recent years, the turnover rate for sworn police positions remains low, trending between 5-7% annually. Peoria remains an employer of choice, with more than 200 applications recently received for police recruit positions.

-           Regarding compensation, the City Council has continued to support officer pay increases. For example, Peoria Police officers have received 5-percent step increases in each of the last 3 years, as well as market adjustments, and increases to their benefit packages.  This has enabled our City to remain competitive with other agencies in the region. Importantly, the pay packages were recommended by the police union president, and ratified by the entire membership.

-           As the City continues to grow, the City Council continually authorizes new sworn and support positions to preserve our high standards.  Eight new sworn officer positions have been added in the last five years.  This occurred during a period where the City has experienced a significant reduction in crime, and witnessed slower growth in population.

-           Recently the City Council authorized a sales tax ballot initiative be placed on the ballot for Peoria voters.  This sales tax would support an additional five police officers, four Park Ranger positions, and other public safety activities.  The union press statement incorrectly suggests that no resources for the Police Department are included in this ballot initiative.

Over the last few weeks, there has been an outpouring of support from Peoria residents toward the entire Peoria law enforcement family.  The Peoria City Council, leadership team, and police command staff are proud to be associated, and work together, with the sworn officers and support staff of the Peoria Police Department.”