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Here’s how Phoenix police expects to hire more officers

The Phoenix Police Department is adjusting the way it recruits and handles officer applicants and expects changes will boost hiring numbers this year.

The Numbers

Phoenix is short more than 400 officers. For years, the City Council has approved funding for 3,125 officers and, as of Wednesday, the department reported 2,703 sworn filled positions. 

Minimum staffing for patrol is set at 1,096 but the department reported 1,005 officers currently working patrol. Twenty officers are in training and 91 were assigned to other duties due to medical and other conditions.

In February, Chief Jeri Williams announced plans to reassign about 120 officer and sergeant level positions to patrol.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved $7,500 retention bonuses for the department and nearly 90% of sworn employees had received them.

Recruitment Efforts

Nationally and locally, law enforcement agencies are struggling to fill officer vacancies. Assistant Chief Bryan Chapman told the public safety subcommittee the pandemic also hurt because it stopped nearly all their recruiting activities.

In December 2021, the recruiting unit was moved to the police academy and restructured so it has a sergeant and five recruiters.

Since then, they’ve increased outreach to high school students, beginning with the  department’s cadet program, geared to 14- to 18 year-olds.

“The idea is while we are engaged with them through the high school efforts, bring them into employment between the ages of 18 to 20 and then transition them into a full time career as a sworn officer or staying as a non sworn staff member within the organization,” Chapman said.

The department added study sessions for people before they take the initial written test and they offer physical fitness sessions to help prepare applicants for the rigors of the academy.

A fast track program is being considered for officers hired from other Arizona agencies that would let them pick their shifts and precincts. Last year, Phoenix began  offering hiring bonuses up to $7,500 and increased social media efforts.

Chapman acknowledged the need for sworn officers to be on the streets, rather than heavily focused on formal recruiting efforts.

“The city of Phoenix is onboarding someone within their HR talent acquisition to specifically target an recruit sworn officers and applicants from the private sector, in addition to that, we’ve had discussion with the assistant city manager about recruitment efforts targeting — not coming so much for the police department but having a vendor create some of that,” he said. “I think that you will see, over the course of the next 8 to 10 months, there will be an evolution of positivity within recruit and hiring.”

Non-sworn personnel

Less than a week after Phoenix posted nearly 35 new positions in the police department, hundreds of people have applied.  Most of the jobs are for civilian police investigators — those are non-sworn positions that will help detectives by handling administrative tasks. 

Executive Assistant Chief Mike Kurtenbach said as of Wednesday morning, they had received nearly 450 applications. 

“I think that’s going to show not only is there tremendous interest in working for the Phoenix Police Department but it’s going to afford us the opportunity to get very high quality applicants,” he said.

The other positions are for police assistants, people who respond to traffic crashes with no injuries and investigations where no suspect is present.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.