After years of losing more officers than they are hiring, Phoenix police say they are turning the corner on staffing. Phoenix increased police wages to the highest in the state, increased the number of positions, and launched new recruiting programs to curb staffing issues, The Arizona Republic reports. Recruitment Commander Sara Garza said, “We're actually really excited that this looks like the first year that our hiring will exceed our attrition. The first year in several.” After the 2008 "Great Recession," Phoenix froze police hiring. Then the pandemic hit, leading to more departures. For at least the last five years, more officers have been leaving than have coming in. The department projects that 2023 will be the first year without an officer deficit. Around 171 new officers joined this year so far, while 130 are projected to leave by the end of the year. This shortage of police officers has resulted in increased workloads for the existing staff, leading to possible burnout and strained resources. One outcome has been increased overtime shifts. Other officers have been putting off retirement.
There is a silver lining, Garza says. The new recruits joining the department are being trained by experienced officers with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. “Instead of where, historically, they're being trained by people that only had a few years of experience, that first wave of recruits is now being trained by very experienced officers,” Garza said. To tackle the staffing challenges, the police department has changed where and when it reaches potential recruits. Recognizing preferences of the younger generation, the department has shifted its recruitment efforts to focus more on digital platforms. With the majority of potential candidates using digital channels, the department has ramped up its social media presence and digital advertising to reach a wider pool of applicants, including a planned podcast. While traditional recruitment methods, such as attending recruiting events, are still done, the emphasis on digital outreach has proved to be effective in connecting with and engaging potential candidates, said Garza. The department said that 13% of applicants who have made it past the initial application process make it into uniform.