Ariz. PD no longer responding to some calls due to staffing shortage

Officers will no longer respond to runaways, medical welfare checks and some traffic incidents, among others


By Suzie Ziegler 

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Tucson Police Department will no longer respond to certain calls amid a staffing shortage, the police chief announced this week. 

In an email obtained by KVOA, Chief Chris Magnus said that "call demand far exceeds the number of officers available to address it.” 

Tucson Police will no longer respond to calls for runaways, medical welfare checks, loud noise/party calls, and some traffic accidents, alarm calls and property crimes, among others. 

Tucson city and police officials say it’s no secret that the department is having staffing issues. 

Sgt. Paul Sheldon, the Fraternal Order of Police State president, told KVOA that the department currently has 765 officers. That’s 400 fewer than when Sheldon joined twenty years ago. Meanwhile, the city’s population continues to grow. 

"For the taxpayers, I would be severely concerned with the level of public safety you're going to have in your community, in our community," Sheldon said. 

Sgt. Richard Gradillas, who oversees recruitment, says retirements are one reason for the shortage. 

"We have a lot of people retiring because they have done their time," Gradillas told KVOA. "So, we're looking for that new generation that is coming into the workforce." 

According to KVOA, most of the experienced officers are leaving for higher-paying jobs with other departments. 

See below for Magnus’ full department memo regarding the staffing shortage, obtained by KVOA:

It’s no secret that our department is facing a staffing shortage. Call demand far exceeds the number of officers available to address it. Although the stress of reduced staffing takes a toll on the entire department, it’s most impactful to our patrol officers, who bear the burden for us all. Increased recruiting and decreased attrition certainly stand as important parts of the solution, but neither provides immediate relief. To keep our patrol divisions staffed at a safe level critical changes must be made.  

Lowering Demand-Relief for Patrol The most expedient way to reduce the demand on patrol involves changing our service delivery. That means keeping certain call types from ever showing up on your boards. Simply put, we have all thought about and identified those calls that should not involve a police response, and probably never should have. Now is the time to turn those thoughts into action. These changes you see below won’t happen with the flip of the switch. Instead, they will be phased in overtime in a way that takes into consideration a wide range of factors. This list is not all-inclusive, as we are looking at every type of call for service, but it’s a start that will get us moving in the right direction. A direction that involves putting you in a position to handle the calls that police officers should. (A shout out and thank you- to the patrol sergeants who assisted in identifying a number of these call types).  

Coming off the Board- Near Term: 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 Medical check welfare Uncooperative victims at hospitals Non-criminal transports (medical, detox, shelter, etc.)  

Coming off the Board- Longer Term: All code enforcement Trespassers inside certain abandoned properties Civil matters (Landlord-Tenant disputes, child custody issues) Runaways Mental health check welfares (see note below about CMT) Suicidal subjects (see note below about CMT) Panhandling, UIP, DIP Financial crimes Abandoned line Making More of Crisis Mobile Teams CMT, or Crisis Mobile Teams, which you have all benefited from at some point, need to be utilized whenever possible. The more we use them, the more staffing they get. The more staffing they get, the more we can use them. You get the picture. More training on this will be coming shortly but the bottom line is that if you have a situation that they may be able to help you with, or that they may be able to handle outright, then make the call.  

More Officers on the Street There is no easy way to do this. No one likes having their lives disrupted, and the way personnel moves occur must take that into account. 

For this reason, all patrol divisions will be conducting a rebid as quickly as possible in order to facilitate the following: Traffic Safety officers will spend at least half of their time taking calls for service (they will be able to maintain certifications) The majority of Prisoner Transport Unit officers will return to patrol Some academy staff will return to patrol The majority of the Mayoral Security detail will return to patrol Commander Contraction PSB divisions will decrease to two lieutenants each via attrition. Vacancies in non-patrol functions will be left open where possible. Transforming Operations at Commo PSCD is facing its own staffing crisis. If you can believe it, it’s worse than ours. With the significant reduction in the types of calls that we are going to, and the need to develop the alternative response mechanisms necessary to fill the void, we need department staff in place to oversee the transition. 

Understand that none of these staff are pulled from active patrol. The following four people are temporarily assigned to communications: Non-patrol commander Office of Professional Standards sergeant Two long term light-duty officers The Way Ahead We recognize this is a temporary fix to an ongoing problem. We will be continuing to look for service and process improvements. 

If you have any ideas, now is the time to bring them forward.  

Chris Magnus 

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