There is much debate as to what is an adequate number of police officers in order to ensure public safety. The city of Tucson, in Arizona is a perfect example of what is and is not adequate.
Tucson, the fifth poorest metropolitan area in the country, has less than 800 sworn police officers to patrol approximately 238 square miles. The patrol area is divided into 5 divisions and getting a response could take over 15 minutes, even in the event of a violent crime.
Worse yet, if the perpetrator is no longer on scene, it could take hours, days, or even elicit no response at all.
A friend from the police department relayed a story of a domestic violence and aggravated battery call to which it took over 20 minutes for officers to arrive on scene.
Additionally, a 90 minute 911 response cost a man his life this week. This is apparently acceptable to the elected officials of Tucson’s City Council.
I moved to Tucson in August 2001 after an assignment to South Korea. At one point, I considered joining the police department upon my retirement from the Air Force. I started working on finishing my college degree and conducted research into one of the largest police departments in the state.
At the time, the Tucson Police Department had over 1100 sworn officers and was still hiring. The city enjoyed a relatively low crime rate for a community of its size.
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Since then, a complete takeover of the Mayor and City Council offices by democrats have ensured that nothing, but the most progressive ideology will be permitted to be practiced. The last republican elected to the city council switched political parties during his first term.
The city runs a deficit with the loss of 5-6 police officers per month from attrition or retirements. This is a slight reduction of the hemorrhaging from last year of 6-8 officers per month.
As active members of our community, my wife and I stay engaged with local organizations and outlets. We attend community forums provided by our local law enforcement professionals and are active with our Neighborhood Watch.
What does it say to the community when the Mayor gets carjacked and the Police Chief has his car broken in to? It doesn’t necessarily instill confidence throughout the community.
With the national rhetoric filled with disdain toward law enforcement (fostered by the Obama administration), the once highly sought-after vocation is now a continuous vacancy on the employee rolls.
While law enforcement agencies around the state are continuing to hire and retain, the total number of officers the City of Tucson has approved to replace the vacant positions is limited to a net gain of approximately 20.
Anyone with basic math skills can determine that a net gain of 20 offset by the loss of 60-70 officers per year will keep Tucson understaffed for the foreseeable future.
With a city of over 560,000 residents, it should employ 1,000~1,400 sworn officers based on a 2012 study by the Center for Public Safety Management. There are numerous cities in the US smaller in population than Tucson that employ many more officers.
The priorities of the city council and mayor have put public safety on the back burner for the sake of social activism, crony deals, and antiquated technology.
Over the course of the last 18 years, I have watched the city subsidize transportation at the expense of public safety. I have watched police officers retire early and leave the city because it is no longer welcoming to them.
In 2016, Tucson hired an activist to fulfill the role of police chief. As the senior law enforcement officer, his background as a supporter of Black Lives Matter and various progressive organizations had an effect on the morale of the department and the community as a whole.
It is no secret that Tucson is a very liberal city, but law enforcement is not the vocation for social justice warriors. It is a calling similar to the one heard by military service members, who leave their homes never knowing whether they’ll be back that evening.
This is the reality they deal with on a daily basis. We need these men and women to uphold the law, investigate crimes, and minimize crime in our city. They cannot do that if they are not supported by the city, a strong police chief, and the people of the city.
Editor note: The Pima County Republican Party is raising funds to show support for law enforcement officers in Arizona. Arizona is the 4th worst state in the US and District of Columbia to be a police officer. A portion of the proceeds will be donated the 100 Club of Arizona which provides support for families of law enforcement officers injured or killed in the line of duty. Kyle Reyes, our National Spokesman, will be the keynote speaker at the event in September. We hope to see you there! To learn more, click here.
Chris King is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant with combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a local activist and has declared Tucson his home and enduring community service project.