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ASU professor: Increase in officer-involved shootings tied to reduction in force

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Jeff Hynes said the increase in officer-involved shootings is linked to the down economy and cuts within law enforcement agencies. (Source: CBS 5 News) Jeff Hynes said the increase in officer-involved shootings is linked to the down economy and cuts within law enforcement agencies. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

There have been more than a dozen officer-involved shootings in the Valley since the beginning of the year, and more can be expected because of a down economy and cuts to local police forces, said an Arizona State University professor of criminology.

The latest happened Tuesday morning when Phoenix police shot and killed a carjacking suspect near CityScape in busy downtown Phoenix.

It's also one of several that happened in public, where innocent people were put into harm's way.

"I feel very scared," said Phoenix resident Kathi Dahl, who works near where the shooting happened. "I feel very scared for my children."

Other people strolling through CityScape Tuesday afternoon felt the same way.

"That is a little frightening, and I hope those kinds of things don't continue," said downtown Phoenix resident John Kohli.

But the fact is, officer-involved shootings, brought on by violence against officers, are on the rise.

There have been 13 in the Valley since January, five in March alone.

"You're going to see more assaults, more shootings," said Jeff Hynes, an adjunct professor for ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice who also teaches at Glendale Community College's Public Safety Sciences department. "You're going to see more violence."

Hynes also spent more than 30 years with the Phoenix Police Department before retiring as a commander.

He told CBS 5 News the increase in officer-involved shootings is linked to the down economy and cuts within law enforcement agencies.

"I truly believe it's a connection with the reduction of police forces around the country and taking your officers out of the community interaction area and putting them back into a patrol function," Hynes said.

"You look here in the Valley, and most agencies have lost somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of their patrol officers just through attrition and not hiring," he said.

The Phoenix Police Department told CBS 5 News it had 3,388 officers in 2008.

As of January 2014, the force was down to 2,891 and expected to lose more.

The department even had to pull six sergeants out of Community Action Officer squads to cover the need in patrol.

"What community-based policing does, and that connection with the community does, is it identifies police officers as a human being - someone who's part of the community," Hynes explained. "Once you lose that, that bad guy is quicker to injure and harm our officers."

People CBS 5 News spoke with in downtown Phoenix said they hope to see the city's police force bolstered sooner rather than later.

"I think once the force is beefed up, that'll also serve as a deterrent for future crimes," said Phoenix resident and ASU law student Chantale Augustave. "So, definitely something needs to be done about it."

Hynes predicts it will be a good three to five years before we see staffing levels in law enforcement agencies increase and violence against officers start to drop off.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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