A plan to adjust squad sizes and move police officers out of Ahwatukee Foothills was stopped short this week as City Councilman Sal DiCiccio called for more transparency.
DiCiccio says he was alerted of the issue on Monday, and he began sending emails and making calls as soon as he reached the office.
The plan was for squad sizes in Ahwatukee Foothills, which currently have six or seven officers in each squad, to be reduced to five officers. The extra officers would be transferred out of Ahwatukee to the other side of the South Mountain Precinct.
Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department said he had not heard of any plans to move officers out of Ahwatukee, but emails between DiCiccio's office and Sean Mattson, administrative sergeant for the South Mountain Precinct, and Cmdr. Chris Crockett confirm that there was an initial plan to adjust officers, which was scheduled to take effect Feb. 6. That plan was changed on Wednesday to "no longer involve changing staffing levels in Ahwatukee."
"Our precinct has experienced a loss of manpower due to retirements, transfers to specialty details, military deployment, long-term health issues, and other factors," Crockett wrote in an email to DiCiccio's office. "Due to this loss of available precinct officers, combined with the fact that we have not hired an officer in over two years, there are no new police officers to take their place as was customary in the past. Bottom line is when we lose an officer from the precinct they are not replaced. This has caused severe shortages on several squads and has required that we move officers from some squads that have adequate manpower to squads that have now gone below minimum staffing levels.
"This means that manpower will move from fully staffed squads, five of which are in Ahwatukee, to the critically short squads. This decision is based on officer safety concerns, calls for service, crime scene management considerations, as well as crime suppression issues."
Crockett said the change would return Ahwatukee to staffing levels that were in place six months ago. Recent changes resulted in all six Ahwatukee Foothills squads to be fully staffed for the first time since August of 2010, but the loss of so many officers in a short amount of time necessitated staffing changes.
DiCiccio said his main concern was how the move was done.
"The moves might not have been that drastic, I don't know," DiCiccio said. "It would have brought everything back to staffing levels before, but it was the way this thing was handled. It was trying to hide from the public and the council. It shouldn't be done quietly and covertly. The public has every right to know. I'm very happy the decision got reversed."
The Phoenix Police Department has not hired in years and does not plan to hire until at least 2014.
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