PEORIA, AZ - A Valley city plagued by slow police response times and overworked officers has a plan to fix the problems. But the plan to make Peoria PD better is expensive and already under fire from critics.
The City of Peoria paid $68,000 to have an outside consulting firm figure out what's wrong and the group found plenty. The consultant group said the police department's officers on the street are understaffed by 16 percent. The officers aren't distributed efficiently, and they're overworked, according to the group.
"There could be beats that are not covered some days. It all depends what staffing we have available," said Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter.
The consultants unveiled their report to the city council during a study session that became contentious at times. Peoria Councilwoman Vicki Hunt said some of the recommendations for fixing beat staffing deficiencies sounded like "smoke and mirrors."
Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat, however, praised the study and reminded citizens that Peoria is still a safe city with low violent crime.
Critics lashed out at the report, saying the city shouldn't have to pay $68,000 to figure out they need more officers. Joe Clure is a retired Phoenix police officer and union boss who lives in north Peoria and didn't like what he heard.
"It's not rocket science. That's what you pay a police chief for and, like I say, if he is not capable of managing the police department then find someone who is," Clure said.
Clure's north Peoria neighborhood is where the problems all started with a call for service that ran into a 27 minute response time.
"I'm in the house by myself in Vistancia, and I was just woken up by somebody banging, I believe, on my sliding glass door," said the caller.
Average response times in the remote Vistancia area were around 12 minutes several months ago. Chief Minter said they've since come down to eight or nine minutes.
The consultants say their recommendations could improve performance across the board.
"What you saw is a pretty strong recommendation of reducing the number of beats that we have and increasing the level of staffing in those beats," Chief Minter said.
Clure said that's still an unacceptably high response time, and the solution is simple, hire more officers.
Minter said they're also working to hire five open officer positions and have eight people in the police academy.