Chief problem: keeping TPD officers from jumping ship
Reporter: Joel Waldman
TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - An internal Tucson Police Department memo is in now in wide circulation, outlining the fallout from the failure of prop 400.
The memo outlines how the department plans to make up for being down 145 officers, all through attrition. But, reassignments are coming in December. Twenty traffic officers will be moved to patrol duties, along with 26 from the bicycle unit, seven from recruiting and academy duty, and five internal affairs detectives.
Also outlined in the memo, the psychological toll all of this is taking on Tucson's men and women in blue. The man shouldering the burden, Police Chief Roberto Villasenor is now speaking out. And, it's not exactly what you want to hear from the Tucson Police Chief, whether you're a cop or being protected by one.
"The bank robbery came out, but there were no officers to respond (to it). A couple of calls came out and (TPD) still couldn't get officers to respond," explained Villasenor about a recent Thursday afternoon bank heist.
It's the grim reality of a department facing a possible 10% cut department-wide. Already down 145 officers, Chief Villasenor tells KGUN9 more and more calls are getting fewer and fewer responses.
"That's endangering police officers' lives, but it's also endangering civilians lives too?" KGUN9 asked.
"True, I don't want give the impression that's the first time this is happening. But, what I'm hearing from the street is it's happening much more frequently now," said Villasenor.
"How concerned are you, as a city leader, that not only police officers are in danger, but civilians too?" KGUN9 asked Deputy City Manager and former Tucson Police Chief, Richard Miranda.
"I think the basic function of government is (it's) supposed to provide public safety. That's the number one function. I'm very concerned," said Miranda.
That concern is driving Miranda's boss, City Manager Mike Letcher, the city council and mayor all to look for ways to backfill a multimillion dollar budget deficit. Council member Steve Kozachik has specifically asked to fast track an exact number of cuts so younger officers know what's happening, to try to keep them from leaving for more stable work.
"While we don't know what the final cuts will be, what has been mentioned by the core tax committee is a 10% cut. So, I looked at that number, and since there's been so much attrition, I felt like I could handle through attrition and not by laying off commissioned officers," said Chief Villasenor.
Tucson Fire Chief Patrick Kelly is already down 20 firefighters. He says his men and women will lose jobs, and even services will get cut if his cuts are steeper than 6.5%. A 10% cut for the fire chief means 36 young firefighters would be gone.
"Chief, do you for see putting together a memo like Chief Villasenor (already) did anytime in the near future?" KGUN9 asked.
"We talked to our membership. They know what it is. They know the recommendation from the core tax committee," said Chief Kelly.
TPD has already seen the attrition of sixty-two officers this year. That's more officers than left the department all of the previous year. The chief says at least seven agencies are hiring at the state level, and that federal jobs are also open. With the current economic instability, he's not surprised his officers are jumping ship. Chief Villasenor also explained it costs about $100,000 per year to train one new officer. If 100 officers left for more stable work, that's 10 million dollars down the drain for the department.