Tucson, AZ – The severely-understaffed Tucson Police Department (TPD) will no longer respond to numerous types of calls in an attempt to ensure there are still enough officers to respond to high-priority emergencies.
TPD Chief Chris Magnus said the department is buckling beneath a severe staffing shortage that is becoming more dire by the day, the Green Valley News reported.
“Call demand far exceeds the number of officers available to address it,” Chief Magnus said in an internal email last week, according to the paper.
Effective in the near future, TPD will no longer respond to deaths at medical care facilities, noise complaints, medical welfare checks, and non-criminal homeless calls that occur on public property, Chief Magnus said in the internal email he issued March 4, according to the Green Valley News.
Offers will also no longer respond to reports of contraband found at courts, hospitals and schools, with the exception of firearms.
Police will not provide transports for medical, shelter, or detox cases, and will not respond to hospitals to deal with uncooperative victims, he said.
Chief Magnus said more call types will be omitted in the event the TPD’s staff continues to dwindle, to include responding to trespassers inside certain properties, all code enforcement, runaways, civil matters, suicidal subjects, mental health welfare checks, panhandling, and defecating or urinating in public, the Green Valley News reported.
Sending officers to investigate financial crimes could also come to an end if the situation doesn’t improve.
“It’s a gradual transition and many of these are things we shouldn’t have been responding to in the first place,” Chief Magnus told the Green Valley News.
The chief said in the email that “there is no easy way” to deal with the problems the department is facing, and called the changes “a temporary fix to an ongoing problem.”
He said traffic safety officers must spend at least half of their shifts responding to calls for service, and pulled a majority of the agency’s prison transport officers back onto patrol duties, the Green Valley News reported.
The bulk of the mayoral security detail will be returning to patrol duties, as will some of the police academy staff, he said.
According to the Tucson Police Officers Association (TPOA), the staffing shortage has resulted in a severe delay in response times to 1,012 burglaries over the past year.
A bulk of burglary victims waited at least four hours to speak with an officer, while at least one victim waited for 23 hours, the TPOA said in a Facebook post.
“It really delays our response to the community, which means we lose evidence scattering, we lose time in the suspect being further away or ahead of us,” a union spokesperson told KGUN. “And then as our standard goes down, we’re going to see cuts to our proactive, preventative strategies.”
Chief Magnus explained to the Tucson City Council in January that the city is paying its police officers 13.4 percent less than departments in surrounding jurisdictions are offering, the Green Valley News reported.
He said it would take $10.6 million annually to bring TPD up to par.
Experienced officers are leaving the department “at a troubling rate” in exchange for pay and perks offered by other departments, such as the nearby Queen Creek Police Department (QCPD), Chief Magnus said.
The QCPD only takes lateral hires and offers a base wage that is $19,000 higher than TPD’s, the Green Valley News reported.
The QCPD also tosses in a $2,000 hiring bonus, according to Chief Magnus.
“Departments want to hire our cops,” he warned the city council back in January.
The TPD is currently losing approximately 8.5 officers per month, according to the chief.
They had 853 sworn officers in January of 2020, and will be down to 709 sworn officers in January of 2024 if this rate continues, the Green Valley News reported.
The department needs to have 1,000 sworn officers to fully function, according to KGUN.
“Staffing itself affects our morale and then also, it’s everything,” a TPOA spokesperson told the news outlet. “It’s the equipment. It’s the overall feeling that we’re not investing in public safety the way we should, and that and that drives down morale across the board.”