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Projection: Phoenix headed for low amount of cops

PHOENIX – As the Great Recession gripped our state and country, Phoenix had 3,375 sworn police officers.

In 2014, the city has 2,878 officers and, by July 2015, the city projects a low of 2,765 officers, 113 fewer than 2014 and 610 fewer than in 2008.

In 2010, the city’s public safety budget was $47 million short. Increased pension costs for police and fire departments, negotiated raises in contracts and a drop in sales tax revenue contributed to the shortfall. Rather than layoff police and firefighters, city leaders instituted a hiring freeze and relied heavily on attrition, mostly people retiring.

According to a city council report, since 2000, staffing levels have increased approximately 9.4 percent for police and 24.8 percent for fire. During that same time, calls for police service have dropped by about 29 percent while fire calls have increased about 33 percent.

Phoenix expects to begin hiring new officers and firefighters in 2015. Slightly more than 100 new fire and police positions have been added in the last few years, thanks to federal grants.

The report, which will be reviewed by city council members this week, also found:

• Police have maintained a priority one response time of approximately five and a half minutes.
• The fire department’s response times have improved by approximately 10 seconds.
• Phoenix has 1.98 sworn officers per 1,000 residents.
• Phoenix has 1.08 sworn fire employees per 1,000 residents.