Tucson PD prioritizes calls as officer numbers fall

Tucson PD prioritizes calls as officer numbers fall

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson Police Department staffing shortage has reached what some people call a crisis stage and has officers in the field, more and more often, prioritizing calls.

"We are at a crisis level, in my opinion," said Roland Gutierrez, the President of the Tucson Police Officers Association.

And some victims of crime would agree with that.

Non-priority calls can take hours, even days depending on the level.

Level 1 calls are top priority. They include domestic violence with a threat of harm, shootings, and serious trauma cases. A crime in progress is also a priority call but they fall off from there down to Level 4 calls, which are the lowest priority.

"So while they're handling the domestic violence call, a shooting, and active fight call may come in, so a person who called in a burglary, that keeps getting pushed further and further down on the priority level," Gutierrez said.

Officers in the field, who may have a choice of several calls to respond to, must prioritize which ones get answered and when.

"That goes directly to a shortage of manpower and an increasing call load," he said.

Alicia Johansen, a sophomore at the U of A, found that to be the case when someone broke into her home.

"I came home, the back door was open," she said. "I called Tucson police."

While she and her friends waited, hours passed before an officer showed up.

"I recognize they have to prioritize, that's fair," she said. "But at the same time it does make you question if they are going to be there when you need them to be there."

That's a question Tucson's police chief, Chris Magnus, finds troubling.

"I think obviously we're all concerned," he said. "Safety has to be the city's top priority."

The number of officers had d ropped from a high of just over 1,100 to just under 800 officers now and dwindling.

"It's our top priority," he said. "It's something we have to address."

The Tucson City Council will discuss and likely give direction to the city manager next week to finds ways to stop the attrition.

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