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Shortage of Valley police officers leads to a nationwide search to fill openings

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Posted at 4:51 PM, Oct 13, 2021

Across the Valley, police departments are facing challenges hiring new officers. Not enough new recruits are signing up.

“It’s a time to grab any law enforcement officer that you’re around that wears the blue and a badge and say thank you for what they do,” Governor Ducey said Tuesday.

It’s been a brutal October for Arizona law enforcement. On Wednesday, there was a procession for Sergeant Michael Rudd with the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office. Rudd died in the line of duty Monday.

The same day Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Ruiz died as a result of a beating from a suspect Ruiz was booking into jail Saturday. Last week, DEA agent Mike Garbo was killed during a drug arrest in Tucson.

Being a police officer has never been easy, but it never stopped people from wanting to sign up. Times have changed, and police departments are competing against each other by offering signing bonuses and other inducements to lure experienced officers away from their current jobs.

“I’m not a big fan of that because of the haves have more and the have nots have less," said retired Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead

Milstead says law enforcement needs to do what the military does - offer shorter commitments, offer incentives similar to the GI Bill, school tuition breaks, and home loans.

“You come to teach in Arizona we will support you, pay off your loans for being a teacher in Arizona. I think it’s a model for law enforcement to follow,” Milstead said.

Phoenix police will soon go to Ohio to recruit. There are approximately 2,800 officers currently on the force down from approximately 3,100 officers a few years ago.

Normally there are 125 cadets in a typical training academy class. Today there are 39.

With more officers opting to retire after 20 years, the department finds itself in a precarious place.

Last month Executive Assistant Chief Mike Kurkenback told a Phoenix City Council subcommittee, “We’re losing on average 11 more than we’re hiring every month.”

Milstead doesn’t believe the line of duty deaths will turn people away from a career in law enforcement. But the economy certainly isn’t helping.

Police departments are also competing with other employers who offer high-paying jobs that aren’t as challenging or as dangerous as being a police officer.