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Higher salaries, better recruiting and software are paying off for Phoenix police

Hiring and retention bonuses and salary increases are paying off for the Phoenix Police Department. 

Not just money

When the Phoenix City Council voted in June to make Phoenix police the highest paid law enforcement agency in the state, people noticed. The department expects to hire 200 officers this year, twice as many as last year. 

Assistant Chief Bryan Chapman told the city’s public safety subcommittee a new cloud-based human resources platform helps, too. Applicants upload documents that activate next steps in the process. 

“Before this we were touched with paper at every aspect, manila envelope files. Detectives were actually — I wouldn’t say fighting but the fax machine was really prime territory because we had to fax out requests across the country,” he said.

What used to take up to 70 days, can be done in as little as 15, Chapman said. 

Since changing the hiring process to allow applicants with an associates degree or higher skip taking the written test and move directly into the background investigation, Phoenix has seen an 800% increase in degree waiver hires. 

The department is also working with the city’s human resources department on an oral applicant test in lieu of a written exam. 

High schools and military outreach

The department has also increased recruitment in high schools and the military. In March, Phoenix had 23 enrolled in the police cadet program designed for 14- to 21-year-olds. In August, the program had a maximum enrollment of 50. A person must be at least 20 1/2 years old to enter the police academy, but they can apply sooner.

By the end of 2022, the department expects to get final approval to participate in SkillBridge, a federal program for retiring and transitioning service members to participate in industry training programs while transitioning out of military careers. Chapman said the Defense Department will cover participants’ pay and benefits for up to six months.

By next year, he said the hiring process could be almost completely remote with only one in-person visit required.  

“Anything from our background interviews to we have a physical fitness assessment that can be uploaded to YouTube that is monitored to our psychological interviews with our doctors that are done remotely across the country now, so, we are very efficient in valuing people’s time and making sure they only have to have one trip here to finalize that process,” Chapman said. 


" ... [W]e are very efficient in valuing people's time ... " — Bryan Chapman, assistant police chief

The numbers

Between 2015 and 2019, the department lost 215 offices annually due to retirements and resignations. In 2021, the department lost 275. Through early September 2022, the department reported 196. 

The City Council has  authorized funding for 3,125 officers. As of Sept. 1, 2022, the department had 2,603 sworn filled positions with 82 police recruits in the academy.

"The retention bonuses and the market adjustments have definitely helped our attrition rate with respect to current employees not leaving in drovers as had been previously seen," Chapman said.

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