A survey conducted by OH Predictive Insights on behalf of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) found that Phoenix voters overwhelmingly fault Democratic Mayor Kate Gallego and the Democrat-dominated city council for public safety problems. More than three in five Phoenix voters (62%) blame them, while only 15% say the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) is responsible. Hispanics were slightly more likely to blame the mayor and city council, 64%.
“It is evident that the recent anti-police rhetoric within the Phoenix City Council does not match voter sentiment within the City of Phoenix,” said Michael “Britt” London, president of PLEA. “Phoenix voters value our police officers and recognize that we need additional resources to protect our community and bring crime rates down. Voters clearly want the Mayor and Phoenix City Council to take action and direct additional funding and resources to the Phoenix Police Department to keep residents safe.”
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who has steadfastly championed supporting Phoenix Police, is not running for reelection and his longtime chief of staff Sam Stone is running instead for the position. Stone told The Arizona Sun Times, “This poll shows just how out of touch the cop-haters on the Phoenix City Council are. Their hatred of police is getting people killed and rather than doing anything about it, this Mayor and Council would rather send a social worker to pat their family on the back afterwards.”
The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of Phoenix voters (62%) say Phoenix would be safer with more police, while only 8% believe there should be fewer officers. Over three-quarters support increasing funds and resources for police. A substantial number of voters want a police presence in schools, 71%, while 20% oppose their presence.
When those surveyed were told that four liberal members of the city council voted to decrease police funding, their approval ratings dropped by 11 points. After the survey takers were provided recent crime statistics, their perception of a “major” crime problem in Phoenix increased by 29%.
A significant 70% of voters believe Phoenix has a problem preventing/investigating crime, with 28% who say it is a major problem. Overall, 85% of respondents said Phoenix police are performing at a fair or better level. Over half, 54%, said officers are doing a good or excellent job. When asked about the Phoenix Police Department specifically, 60% say they have a favorable impression.
The city of Phoenix set up a police review board last year which excluded police officers or former police officers, sparking protest. The Arizona Legislature passed legislation establishing standards for police review boards last year, and Phoenix sued the lawmakers over it. HB 2893 requires that the members of police misconduct boards be partially composed of police officers.
Over the last 10 years, the number of Phoenix police officers declined from 3,300 to 2,700 — even though Phoenix was the fastest growing city in the country during that time span. In November, there were 200 unfilled patrol officer positions, and that number was expected to increase. During a meeting in October, PPD reported that it is 42 officers short of the minimum staffing level for optimal patrol operations. Executive Assistant Chief Mike Kurkenbach told ABC 15 in September. “We’re losing on average 11 more than we’re hiring every month.”
At the same time, crime has been increasing in Phoenix, including violent crime. DiCiccio posted the latest crime numbers on his Facebook page in October, observing that every district in Phoenix is showing increases. The violent crime rate in Phoenix is almost double the national average.
The city of Phoenix instituted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on November 18, which threatened to further decimate the ranks of officers. Only after DiCiccio and others got involved did Phoenix suspend the mandate.
“Although perception is often one’s reality, data doesn’t lie. Phoenix voters believe their city has a crime problem, and statistics only reinforce that belief,” said Mike Noble, OHPI Chief of Research. “However, voters are laying much of the blame at the feet of city leadership rather than the police department – an important public sentiment for councilmembers to be cognizant of in their decision-making.”
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Phoenix Police Department” by Phoenix Police Department.