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Pima County Sheriff making department-wide push for more hires, better pay

Sheriff Chris Nanos says there are currently only three traffic officers in the department.
Posted at 8:54 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-25 02:58:11-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos says when he took office in January, the department was in “quite a hole” when it came to staffing.

“Today, we are climbing out of that hole, but it’s still a struggle,” he said.

“I need more bodies. I need better pay.”

Nanos says after reshuffling district lines and substation assignments, along with the new Vail substation that opened in September, there are enough uniformed deputies to properly cover any emergency calls.

He says there are not enough, however, to fully implement his community policing plans—such as school outreach or regular patrols—which the sheriff believes would make progress in addressing the county’s rising crime rate.

“We’ve done all we can with the resources we have, but our response times haven’t come down, crime hasn’t reduced,” he said. “We’re still struggling with putting together the programs that I would like to have out there.

“Going from call to call to call doesn’t get it done,” Nanos added. “Crime prevention doesn’t just start by answering calls for services. You have to have some foresight that says ‘How do I address what’s going on in my jail?’”

Nanos says there’s also the “quality of life” issue that he only has three traffic officers for the entire county, making enforcement on the roads sparse and difficult.

And the hiring issues run deeper than uniformed deputies or corrections officers. Support staff, such as records, dispatchers and IT are also being hired.

“We can’t do the job without ‘em,” Nanos said.

Nanos says he has open and productive communication with the County Administrator’s Office. He acknowledges that other County departments are facing similar issues, but his message to leadership is that the fastest way to filling out the staff is offering more competitive pay.

“Yes, we want to be fiscally responsible, but… I like to think of it as we have to pay for the sins of the past,” he explained. “For years, we’ve gone without pay raises here.”

There was a 2.5% raise in 2019 and a 5% raise for county employees this fall to address inflation.

“Clearly that’s not enough,” Nanos said. “But it’s appreciated that they recognize, ‘Yeah, there’s a need here.’”

Nanos says he especially wants to help support staff at the bottom of the pay scale, some of whom drive for ride-share apps at night in order to make ends meet.

“There is a human capital to this,” Nanos said. “And I really believe the [Board of Supervisors] knows that. And I think they try their best to fix that. We just need to find the funding for it. I think it’s there.”

Nanos says the Department’s budget package and submittals to the Administrator’s Office are due in January.

The county is currently working on a study of local law enforcement agency pay rates to determine what a competitive pay level would be. That study is expected to be complete by April 2022.