Facing a severe staffing shortage that’s only getting worse, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus last week announced in an internal email that officers won’t be responding to a long list of calls in the near future.
The email, which Magnus confirmed to the Green Valley News was sent by him, said, “Call demand far exceeds the number of officers available to address it.”
In a Jan. 20 Tucson City Council study session, Magnus said the department’s pay is 13.4 percent below that of surrounding agencies and he’d need $10.6 million per year to make up the difference.
He used Queen Creek as an example of how the problem will only get worse. The Phoenix-area city last year decided to start its own police force and is taking only lateral — experienced — hires as it builds its department. He said Queen Creek’s base pay for officers with three to four years of experience is $19,000 higher than that of TPD, not including a $2,000 hiring bonus.
“Departments want to hire our cops,” Magnus told council members, adding that TPD is losing sworn staff “at a troubling rate.”
The department had 853 sworn officers on Jan. 1, 2020, and 813 a year later. At that rate — losing about 8.5 officers per month — they’ll be at 709 on Jan. 1, 2024, he said.
According to Magnus’ email, sent Thursday, they will phase in changes in the near term that will mean the following calls will not be answered:
• Contraband at schools, hospitals, and courts (except firearms)
•Deaths at medical care facilities
•Non-criminal homeless calls on public property
•Loud music/loud noise calls (they would respond to big parties)
•Medical check welfare
•Uncooperative victims at hospitals
•Non-criminal transports (medical, detox, shelter, etc.) Farther down the road, he said officers would no longer respond to the following:
•All code enforcement
•Trespassers inside certain abandoned properties
•Civil matters (landlord-tenant disputes, child custody issues)
•Mental health check welfares
•Panhandling, UIP, DIP (urination/defecation in public)
•Abandoned line This would mean more use of CMTs (Crisis Mobile Teams), Magnus said, in the case of some of these calls.
“It’s a gradual transition and many of these are things we shouldn’t have been responding to in the first place,” Magnus told the Green Valley News.
“There is no easy way to do this,” he wrote in the memo, announcing that traffic safety officers will now spend at least half their time taking calls for service; a majority of prison transport officers will return to patrol; some academy staff will return to patrol; and the majority of the mayoral security detail will return to the streets.
He also laid out several other personnel changes, calling them, “a temporary fix to an ongoing problem.”