Chandler PD sweetens offer for new hires - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler PD sweetens offer for new hires

May 9th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler PD sweetens offer for new hires

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan says his department has been out in front of the effort to recruit officers to fill vacancies that law enforcement agencies across the country are struggling with.

And now he’s sweetening his offer to out-of-towners.

“In July we added a series of bonuses or incentives,” Duggan said, noting that previously, “In fact, we were the first city to do that and kind of started a war.”

Soon, other Valley cities were offering bonuses for new recruits and even more for existing officers to switch departments.

Last year the city offered an existing officer in another department $5,000 to make the lateral move to Chandler. This year, it is effectively doubling that.

The city is stepping up its nationwide recruiting and offering to pay up to $5,000 in moving expenses in addition to the $5,000 bonus. That started on May 1 and goes to any officer coming from outside the metro Phoenix area.

Duggan told City Council during an April 28 work session that those incentives are working. He said they hired 31 sworn officers and 28 civilians in 2021.

He also said the department is down to 24 vacancies in the number of positions authorized by Council. Duggan said recruiting remains the top concern in his department. He anticipates only one to three Deferred Option Retirement Plan (DROP) retirements through 2023.

However, he expects between 12 and 14 DROP retirements each year from 2024 through 2026. In addition, 84 current sworn officers have served more than 20 years and are eligible to retire whenever they like.

“If all 84 left tomorrow, it would be difficult,” Duggan said.

“You’d be back on patrol?” Councilman Matt Orlando asked.

“I’d be retired,” Duggan replied. “I don’t anticipate that happening.”

Chandler had 334 sworn officer positions in 2020-21 fiscal year. That jumped to 360 last year. City administration wants to add two more positions, to 362, in the preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The overall spending plan is being debated now.

In addition, the department has 172 civilian positions this year with 177 proposed for next.

Duggan wants to add four officers and a sergeant to form a behavioral health unit that would respond to and investigate behavioral health-related calls for service and serve mental health petition orders. That move would free up patrol officers to focus on crime and other duties.

Duggan told Council his officers are meeting their response time goals, mainly because they’ve changed how they calculate it.

In 2019 they changed the definition of priority one calls to remove some calls for service that were not really priority one. For example, if someone called to report a manhole cover was missing, that was a priority one call. While important and a safety concern, Duggan said it did not belong in the same category as an assault in progress.

Last year the department also switched from using average response time to using the median. Average times can be skewed by extremes, he said, explaining that it took 20 minutes to get to a couple of calls or 20 seconds. Median is where there are the same number of calls on both sides of that point.

Duggan said his officers’ response time to priority one calls was 4 minutes and 6 seconds last year. That’s well below of his goal of 5 minutes. The goal for priority two calls is 15 minutes, and priority three calls is 30 minutes.

The chief said that his department will be currently staffed at the right level once all the positions are filled. Currently, officers are working overtime to cover when there is leave, training or illness.

Duggan said they use software from Corona Solutions called Deploy to determine how best to staff its precincts. It takes in all the data, analyzes the numbers and then recommends staffing levels. It is also used by the police departments in Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert and Tempe.

The data collected includes how much time officers spend responding to a call for service, writing reports, making phone calls, translating, taking breaks and fueling their vehicles.

The software calculates that each officer is available for calls about 84 percent of the time.

That’s why recruiting to fill the open positions remains the top priority.

Duggan said they are allowing lateral officers who have at least five years of experience to compete for open senior positions after a year of probation. He said that police are well respected in Chandler. Both, Duggan said, help in recruiting.

“Recruiting and hiring, not only is it our top priority right now, it is our greatest challenge – not just for Chandler PD, but it is a regional and national issue,” he added.

How big a challenge can be seen in Phoenix, which is offering a $7,500 hiring bonus for both new recruits and lateral transfers.

Top ranking department heads have told Phoenix City Council that of an authorized 3,125 sworn positions, the department currently has filled fewer than 2,700 – and the number of filled patrol positions is well below what the department considers minimal patrol staffing.

As a result, detectives and sergeants have been put on patrol, increasing the workload for detectives investigating the aftermath of crimes and the average response time continues to rise.

Nor have the Phoenix incentives attracted more recruits, as recent reports by the department to Phoenix City Council show classes fell well below expectations.