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Ariz. lawmaker says number of officers isn’t stacking up

PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker is urging future legislators and citizens to recognize the need for future pay increases at the Department of Public Safety.

In a statement, released Rep. Justin Pierce, Chairman of the Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee, Pierce suggested the agency is entering a period of a potentially acute staffing shortage.

The department is hiring, but according to the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, the number of officers hitting the streets isn’t stacking up to the number of officers that are retiring or moving on to other opportunities.

“I think citizens should be aware and concerned,” said union president Jimmy Chavez.

According to Pierce’s released statement, “the fiscal year 2015 budget included a one-time appropriation of $3.3 million for DPS” to increase pay to personnel by 2 percent. However, some lawmakers maintain that the wages are not competitive and officers are looking for better opportunities within other agencies that can offer salaries of up to $10,000 more than what the State of Arizona pays.

“Just in the last couple of months, we’ve had a handful of officers retire,” said Chavez. “I didn’t expect them to leave, but obviously something came up.”