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Updated Mar 19, 2014 - 7:38 pm

Expert: Economy to blame for rise in officer-involved shootings

Less than four months into 2014, and already the Phoenix area has seen 13 officer-involved shootings, five of them in March alone.

On Tuesday, an officer-involved shooting shutdown an intersection of downtown Phoenix. On March 3, a veteran officer was killed by a suspect and another was wounded.

While lack of respect for authority figures may be a societal problem, one Valley expert says the economy may actually be to blame for the increase.

“It appears that — and this is in consultation with officers and academics here in the Valley and nationally — we’re seeing a trend…that in the last five to seven years, law enforcement numbers have dropped dramatically, due to economic downturns,” Dr. Jeffeory Hynes, professor of criminal studies at Glendale Community College, told 92.3 KTAR’s Mac and Gaydos Wednesday.

Case in point: Phoenix used to have 3,400 law enforcement personnel just a few years ago, Hynes said, but now, the city only has about 2,800.

To compensate for fewer employees, law enforcement agencies are removing their officers from “non-critical conditions,” such as neighborhood and drug-free school programs.

“What we’re finding is that you’re losing touch with your communities,” Hynes said. “The communities are not seeing their officer and making that connection to their officer as ‘this is my officer, Officer Jeff or Officer John or Officer Bill,'” Hynes said.

The trouble with losing an officer’s community identity, Hynes added, is that he or she then becomes “just a part of the system and not part of the community.”

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