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Phoenix wants to send more police assistants — not officers — on non-emergency calls

Phoenix police motorcycles
Jasmine Spearing-Bowen/Cronkite News
Phoenix police motorcycles

The Phoenix Police Department is exploring ways to handle certain calls differently in an effort to be more efficient and effective.

In 2023, Phoenix received 1.8 million calls to 911 and its non-emergency number. About a third involved dispatching police or another department. After analyzing data and working with Arizona State University, police Cmdr. Julie Egea said they recommend hiring more assistants to respond to calls like abandoned vehicles, parking complaints and accidents where no one’s hurt.

“There are two to four police assistants per precinct, working various shifts, who respond to radio traffic specifically. The other PA's within the precincts are assigned to other duties such as police equipment coordinator positions,” Egea recently told council members.

She said Phoenix has 43 police assistants assigned to support patrol. The department has 2,550 police officers, about 600 short of its goal.

“The better we can treat our employees, the better they treat the citizens that are here,” said Executive Assistant Chief Derek Elmore. “So we're looking at that in all different areas and also trying to reduce the number of calls that they have to go on. If the call doesn’t require a badge, we’re looking for alternative sources to make sure that we can get people the service they need.”

When it comes to found or abandoned property, the department said if weapons, drugs or drug paraphernalia are involved, a sworn police response is required while assistants can respond to other property

Egea said they considered providing an option for citizens to drop off found property, but "we currently have limited staffing at the majority of our precincts, so on a personnel level, we're unable to support this.”

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