Recently, KGUN 9 reported on a story of a burglary victim who had to wait 8 hours for the Tucson Police Department to respond to his residence and take the report. That gentleman felt that an 8 hour wait time for a police officer was unacceptable. During KGUN 9’s investigation they also spoke to Lt. Early, Chief Villasenor and City Council members Steve Kozachik and Paul Cunningham. All of them also agreed 8 hours to wait for an officer was unacceptable. The Tucson Police Officer’s Association would like to agree with all of these gentlemen and KGUN 9’s investigation. We would also like to extend our apologies to all crime victims who have had to wait for an extended period for police response. As law enforcement professionals we would like to be able to respond to all calls for service in a timely manner. Better than that, we would like to have the ability to be pro-active during our work shift and prevent crime rather than just report the results.
For the last 5 years the Mayor and City Council have had numerous budget problems. Their response to these problems has been to consistently use public safety as a band aid. Budget cuts, hiring freezes, furloughs, rising benefit costs and ignoring the promises and contracts that they made to their employees. Currently, the police department operates with more than 200 fewer officers then they did 10 years ago. These officers have seen a dramatic increase in calls for service and have been expected to continue to provide professional and fast service. The demands of the job have not changed. The scrutiny and expectations remain high. The accountability for our expenses is conducted with a level of professionalism that is unmatched by any other city department. The reward for our continued professionalism has been to watch as the city places its financial priorities on everything except public safety. As we already discussed, the city is looking for ways to subsidize the streetcar. There is also talk of subsidizing even more money to Suntran. There was also the recent discovery that a sculptor who has done no work received a pay raise for agreeing to do half of what the original contract was and all penalties were waived. These are just a few examples of the fiscal mistakes that are being made.
If recent history has taught us anything, we already know that the first option will be to take more money from public safety. City leadership continues to use the backs of public safety employees at a cost that is only beginning to surface. There are veteran officers who have never received a pay raise. There are officers who have been promised, contractually, that their pay would remain competitive with other Arizona agencies. This year alone, over 23 of our former Tucson police officers have learned that their pay is no longer competitive and neighboring agencies can offer more, better and less work because they are staffed better. The focus of our city management needs to be on retention of our current, qualified and experienced officers who have met the financial challenges of the city with the same professionalism and tenacity, as one would expect of a police officer. It is time for the city to thank those officers and keep the promises they made to them. If they do not, we can expect the exodus of experienced and multi-talented officers to continue. We are already facing a historical exodus of retirees and our current hire rate does not even compensate for that fully. Without assurance from our city leadership that they are willing to make public safety and officer retention their number one priority we will see 8 hour response times become the norm.
You can help! Make your priorities known to your local leadership. Call, email, write or attend a city council meeting and let your voice be heard. Public safety has to be our number one priority and keeping the experienced, talented and overly patient officers we currently have has to be part of that.
Funding the Streetcar – http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/174696081.html
KGUN 9 On Your Side Response Time story –
Council Member Paul Cunningham interview – http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/179230311.html
Council Member Steve Kozachik interview – http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/178281211.html