Five weeks into her job, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams announced Monday she's shifting about 169 officers to patrol duty to help cover for the department's depleted ranks.
"This is necessary to ensure both community and officer safety," Williams said in a prepared statement.
"This plan is a delicate balance of utilizing officers and detectives from the entire department while minimizing impact to other workgroups. The goal is to ensure we maintain expected levels of service to the community and improve response times.
"I can assure you we are doing everything we can to protect our residents, protect our officers, and maintain our healthy police department within our resources."
In addition, about 24 sergeants will be transferred to vacant positions and 97 officers in training will be on the street in coming months, said Sgt. Jonathan Howard, a police spokesman.
Williams is familiar with the department's staffing problems from her 22-year stint here before leaving five years ago for the chief's job in Oxnard, California.
Earlier in the day, the leader of the Phoenix police union urged the city to solve the patrol problem by paying officers overtime, instead of shifting cops into new jobs. One possible cash source for the overtime pay: A revival of Phoenix's 2 percent food tax.
"We can only play this vicious shell game of internally moving people so long before something bad really happens," Ken Crane, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said at a news conference.
Maryvale activist Suzanne Thraen said she was worried about the gaps left by police officers moving into new jobs.
"You just leave us, you leave us stranded," Thraen said of city officials. She would support a return of the food tax to pay for police.
"It's not that much money per person," she said.
But Mayor Greg Stanton shut down the idea.
"The food tax ended during my time as mayor, and I don’t support reinstating it," he said in a written statement.
Phoenix PD's ranks have shrunk since the Great Recession, according to department data:
--In 2008, there were 3,356 sworn officers, 2.14 officers for every thousand residents.
--Today, there are 514 fewer cops, a total of 2,842 sworn officers, just 1.81 per thousand, in a city whose population is the same as it was eight years ago.
"The police department does a lot of things that are nice to do, and then they do things that they have to do," said Arizona State University lecturer Blake McClelland, a former Phoenix police commander and assistant chief who oversaw hiring.
"Moving people back to the patrol division is something that they have to do."
But echoing Suzanne Thraen, McClelland warns that the shift means other areas might suffer.
"Something is going to have to be not done," he said.