Tempe police plan to ask the City Council next week for nearly $3 million over two years to reorganize the department and add 20 new positions such as a homeland security commander, lieutenants and a diversity liaison.
The proposed reorganization was designed to accommodate the growth that the Metro light-rail system, high-rise buildings and more students at Arizona State University campus will bring to the city, officials said.
“This right here was designed to get us to where we need to be and beyond,” Tempe police Chief Tom Ryff said while pointing at the city’s proposed organizational chart. “This is not static, this is a moving organization. We are prepared to use this chart and change it as the need arises.”
Officials said the reorganization is critical to lowering the city’s crime rate, holding management accountable and running a more efficient department. For years, Tempe had the highest crime rate in the East Valley, but that has been falling in recent years, and even more in recent months.
Officials want to reinstitute the rank of lieutenant in the department, which did away with those positions in 2000 during restructuring.
By adding these middle-management positions, officials said sergeants can now focus more on day-to-day operations, and commanders can concentrate on administrative tasks, instead of juggling multiple responsibilities.
Also, the city of Tempe, which is divided into two sections for police purposes, will be split into three districts. That allows supervisors to oversee a smaller portion of the city and keep better track of crime trends.
“Council was briefed, and through this upcoming budget year the funds will be made available should the Council approve it,” said Asst. City Manager Jeff Kulaga. “And then the second year certainly those requests will be measured and compared with everything else in the (fiscal year) 08-09 budget.”
Despite Tempe’s size and regular large-scale events, it’s one of the only cities in the East Valley without specific resources assigned solely to homeland security, according to a document police will give to the City Council. To solve the problem, officials want to create a special section that will organize firefighters, public-works, light-rail and homeland-security task forces under one commander.
“We all have to be on the same page to plan for a large-scale incident,” said Asst. Chief John Rush.
A new supervisor for the Tactical Crime and Intelligence Analysis Center supervisor, one of the new positions proposed, would make crime-scene analysis more efficient.
For example, if someone is murdered, homicide detectives would be able to transmit information to the center, where staff can do background research on a case while the detective is busy at the scene.
City officials have said crime-fighting is their main priority.
“If you have a safe city, it’s like a hamster wheel,” said Bryan Hall, president of the Tempe Officers Association. “You have tourists and the tax dollars come in and you can build high-rises and businesses come to the city.”
Large- and small-scale development occurring across Tempe presents additional challenges. City officials hope to have for the first time a planning and research unit for public-safety planning.
Support Services Director Brenda Buren said that type of unit would give them the ability to conduct long-term planning that they had never been able to do in the past.
“(We) can anticipate the development issue and the changing issues in Tempe,” Buren said.
Police said they also plan to reach out to various groups in their community through a police diversity liaison. The city currently has its own diversity manager, but the reorganization would add an employee who would work out of the police department.