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Phoenix police hope to attract officers from other departments

Since becoming the highest paid law enforcement agency in the state, the Phoenix Police Department has seen a significant increase in applications, but challenges remain.

With 30% of the current force eligible to retire and hundreds of vacant positions, assistant chief Bryan Chapman said hiring all new recruits isn’t the answer. Phoenix wants to attract current officers from other departments.

“I mean if we could supplement hiring of let’s say 40-50 lateral officers a year, that’s four to five squads for us that are instant benefactors to the organization,” he told a council subcommittee.

Lateral officers are those who currently work for other departments in and outside of Arizona. Last month, Phoenix received 17 applications from current officers. Phoenix will not consider an officer who is currently under investigation. 

Chapman explained that Arizona standards can differ from other states — for example, some do not require applicants to undergo a polygraph like Arizona. On average, Phoenix hires 10-13% of applicants.

“The academy is not the answer to our long-term staffing issues and I think it needs to be a balance of retention, hiring lateral officers while having a healthy applicant pool,” Chapman said.

Phoenix has allocated 3,125 sworn positions. As of mid-February, 2,575 were filled. The department estimates it will hire 240 officers in 2023. Since 2018, Phoenix has hired 1,009 officers while 1,278 have left.

Last December, the department eliminated the initial written exam for applicants and replaced it with an oral test. In 2021, when the written exam was in place, 46% of applicants passed and moved on in the process. In 2022, 56% passed the written exam.

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