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TPD Staffing Crisis: Patrols won't respond to certain calls for help

Chief Chris Magnus outlines changes in an internal memo to staff
TPD Staffing Crisis
TPD Staffing Crisis
Posted at 3:14 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 11:20:15-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — An internal memo sent to staff last week from TPD Chief Chris Magnus describes the impact of a severe staffing shortage with the Tucson Police Department.

The focus is on patrol officers, those directly involved with the public on a daily basis.

TPOA’s president explains why the union supports the chief’s decision.

“We just don’t have enough personnel. So the department had to make some very difficult decisions about what they wouldn’t and could not respond to,” said Sgt. Don Jorgenson.

RELATED: TPD Union: "We're losing 10 officers a month"

In the memo, the chief lists which calls officers will no longer see on their respond boards, including:

Near term:

  • Contraband at schools, hospitals, and courts (except firearms)
  • Deaths at medical care facilities
  • Non-criminal homeless calls on public property
  • Loud music/loud noise calls
  • Medical check welfare
  • Uncooperative victims at hospitals
  • Non-criminal transports (medical, detox, shelter, etc.)

Longer term:

  • All code enforcement
  • Trespassers inside certain abandoned properties
  • Civil matters (Landlord-Tenant disputes, child custody issues)
  • Runaways
  • Mental health check welfares (see note below about CMT)
  • Suicidal subjects (see note below about CMT)
  • Panhandling, UIP, DIP
  • Financial crimes
  • Abandoned line

Magnus describes it as a “temporary fix to an ongoing problem.”

TPOA had little involvement in the decision-making process, but Jorgenson says the union is in Magnus’ corner, which is a departure from a few years ago when TPOA spoke out about the staffing shortage then.

"I know his office was very engaged in that process. They spend a lot of time evaluating and thinking about the best solution for that," said Jorgenson.

The chief writes some non-patrol officers will be pulled from regular duty to cover crime on the streets, which includes those in Traffic Safety, Prisoner Transport, and Mayoral Security.

"This is very much about an officer safety issue. We have officers that it’s becoming incredibly dangerous. When there’s nobody out there except you and maybe three or four other officers, that’s unsafe,” said Jorgenson.

The communications center that handles 911 calls, Magnus writes, faces an even deeper staffing crisis.

Read the full memo from TPD Chief Chris Magnus below:

Staffing-Our First Priority
It’s no secret that our department is facing a staffing shortage. Call demand far exceeds the number of officers available to address it. Although the stress of reduced staffing takes a toll on the entire department, it’s most impactful to our patrol officers, who bear the burden for us all. Increased recruiting and decreased attrition certainly stand as important parts of the solution, but neither provides immediate relief. To keep our patrol divisions staffed at a safe level critical changes must be made.
Lowering Demand-Relief for Patrol
The most expedient way to reduce the demand on patrol involves changing our service delivery. That means keeping certain call types from ever showing up on your boards. Simply put, we have all thought about and identified those calls that should not involve a police response, and probably never should have. Now is the time to turn those thoughts into action.
These changes you see below won’t happen with the flip of the switch. Instead, they will be phased in overtime in a way that takes into consideration a wide range of factors. This list is not all-inclusive, as we are looking at every type of call for service, but it’s a start that will get us moving in the right direction. A direction that involves putting you in a position to handle the calls that police officers should. (A shout out and thank you- to the patrol sergeants who assisted in identifying a number of these call types).
Coming off the Board- Near Term:
  • Contraband at schools, hospitals, and courts (except firearms)
  • Deaths at medical care facilities
  • Non-criminal homeless calls on public property
  • Loud music/loud noise calls
  • Medical check welfare
  • Uncooperative victims at hospitals
  • Non-criminal transports (medical, detox, shelter, etc.)
Coming off the Board- Longer Term:
  • All code enforcement
  • Trespassers inside certain abandoned properties
  • Civil matters (Landlord-Tenant disputes, child custody issues)
  • Runaways
  • Mental health check welfares (see note below about CMT)
  • Suicidal subjects (see note below about CMT)
  • Panhandling, UIP, DIP
  • Financial crimes
  • Abandoned line
More Officers on the Street
There is no easy way to do this. No one likes having their lives disrupted, and the way personnel moves occur must take that into account. For this reason, all patrol divisions will be conducting a rebid as quickly as possible in order to facilitate the following:
  • Traffic Safety officers will spend at least half of their time taking calls for service (they will be able to maintain certifications)
  • The majority of Prisoner Transport Unit officers will return to patrol
  • Some academy staff will return to patrol
  • The majority of the Mayoral Security detail will return to patrol
Commander Contraction
PSB divisions will decrease to two lieutenants each via attrition. Vacancies in non-patrol functions will be left open where possible.
Transforming Operations at Commo
PSCD is facing its own staffing crisis. If you can believe it, it’s worse than ours. With the significant reduction in the types of calls that we are going to, and the need to develop the alternative response mechanisms necessary to fill the void, we need department staff in place to oversee the transition. Understand that none of these staff are pulled from active patrol.
The following four people are temporarily assigned to communications:
  • Non-patrol ccommander
  • Office of Professional Standards sergeant
  • Two long term light-duty officers
The Way Ahead
We recognize this is a temporary fix to an ongoing problem. We will be continuing to look for service and process improvements. If you have any ideas, now is the time to bring them forward.