The Phoenix Police Department is still struggling with staffing issues, but experts don’t think it has to do with pay.
“I think the pay is a good starting point, but you really can’t buy morale,” Phoenix police union president Britt London told KTAR News.
According to London, the department lost 274 officers in 2021 and another 20 this month. Ten more officers are scheduled to leave in February.
According to London, when many senior officers leave, the morale leaves with them.
“It really harms an organization when you have all these senior people leaving,” London said.
While an OH Predictive Insights poll found that 76 percent of Phoenix voters supported increasing police funding, London believes that money isn’t the main reason for officers’ dissatisfaction — although an increase in pay could help overall recruitment and retention to an extent.
The real reason for officers’ low morale, London believes, is due to the negativity surrounding the police profession over the last few years.
“We have people that come into our office, and they’ll tell us everything that you can imagine about what’s wrong, from supervision to pay to what the future looks like,” he said. “So it’s really hard to try to stay positive.”
Last year, the Phoenix Police Department reported an increase in emergency calls and longer response times due to staffing shortages. In addition, the city was posting the highest homicide rates since 2007, with 200 in 2020 and possibly more in 2021 (when the data is released).
To boost staff numbers, the department began offering signing bonuses of $7,500 for new recruits in August last year, but it has only helped so much.
At the moment, the agency only has around 1,000 officers on duty, which London doubts is capable of keeping a city of 1.6 million residents safe.
“We could argue about what’s a safe level,” London said, explaining that the Maryvale Precinct has about 24 officers on each shift on a “good day,” but that at times it can be as low as three officers per squad area.
“That is not only unsafe for us, but it’s a disservice to the folks that live in the Maryvale precinct,” he said.