Few residents arrived at a meeting Tuesday night to discuss changes in the Phoenix Police Department stemming from a Berkshire Innovation and Efficiency Review, but those who did attend had a lot to say about possible changes in the department.
The meeting at South Mountain Community College lasted two hours with less than a dozen residents asking questions and getting answers from Phoenix police officers and South Mountain Precinct leaders. Cmdr. Allen Smith led the meeting by first explaining who Berkshire Advisors Inc. was and then opening the session up for questions or comment on the 60 recommendations that came out of the review.
The Berkshire review had 20 recommendations for changes in patrol, which is the area officers asked residents to pay special attention to.
Berkshire recommended reallocating 15 Community Action Officer positions and 318 to 433 patrol positions. Ann Malone, president of Require the Prior and a member of the community advocacy group put together by the city manager's office to review the recommendations, said during a City Council meeting when representatives from Berkshire were presenting their findings they were asked what "reallocate" means. The Berkshire representatives said they meant those employees could be laid off.
Overall, those present at the meeting did not agree with cutting any patrol officers or Community Action Officers. The department has 1,179 patrol officers among eight precincts and will not hire until 2014.
Smith added that Berkshire relied on statistics from the past few years for its review. In that time, calls for service have gone down but in the past five months those statistics have risen again.
Berkshire recommended getting rid of a 4-10 work schedule and staggering officer's schedules. Smith said, currently, the officers on shift all come in at the same time for briefing and training.
If shifts were staggered it would increase the overlap in shifts but that the department might lose some cohesiveness. Getting rid of 4-10s would have to be negotiated with labor groups.
Smith mentioned some of the recommendations that have already happened or are happening. For instance, a recommendation to split operations between two sites has already been done and a recommendation to scale back and eventually eliminate the call center is under way.
The city hopes an online program can make it more efficient for residents to report crimes online, rather than over the phone with the call center. When the online program is launched, officers will still be available over phone or in person for those who need them.
Officers at the meeting did not have a complete list of what changes would and would not happen. This meeting was the first of nine public meetings to get public comment on the recommendations that will be taken back to the City Manager's Office. There will be a meeting in each precinct, as well as one Spanish meeting.
"What we need from you folks is your support," Assistant Chief Kevin Robinson said. "Look at some of these recommendations and if you think, ‘You know what, I want more police officers' or ‘I want this or that,' let us know and we will bring that back. That's the purpose of these meetings. We interact with you day to day through patrol so pay particular attention to that. Think real hard about what you want from your police department and your police officers and let us know what you need."
The entire review, as well as the summary of the 60 recommendations, is available online at phoenix.gov/POLICE
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