Phoenix Police face increase in 911 calls and homicides amid staffing shortages
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department said Wednesday it is facing critically low staffing while emergency calls and homicides are on the rise.
Phoenix police last year received 123,184 emergency calls, and the department expects to surpass that number by nearly 10,000 this year.
The department is also witnessing an increase in homicides, with a possibility Phoenix could surpass 200 homicides by the end of the year, according to Executive Assistant Chief Mike Kurtenbach. Phoenix in 2020 had 200 homicides as a city, the most since 2007.
Increases in emergency calls and homicides are coming amidst the department having trouble replacing sworn officers who leave, which is also having an effect on response time.
“This year with the increase in those emergency calls for service and fewer officers we’ve seen now a 22-second increase in our median response time to these calls,” Kurtenbach said.
The Phoenix Police Department in March of 2020 had 124 recruits eager to join the force but only have 39 in 2021, while the number of sworn officers decreased from 2,926 to 2,781.
In an attempt to boost recruiting numbers, the department in August announced it would launch an incentive program that would pay a $7,500 hiring bonus for new officer recruits and lateral sworn officers.
Phoenix police hoped the incentive would attract more people to the department as agencies across the nation compete for qualified candidates.
The department is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The investigation is probing Phoenix police’s use-of-force practices and looking for patterns of retaliation over activity protected under the First Amendment as well as discrimination against people with disabilities or who are homeless.