Who Will Answer the Call?

Who Will Answer the Call?

Who Will Answer the Call?

Arizona Troopers on patrol in all weather.

Photograph by Shayne Gastelum via AZDPS

4
SEPTEMBER, 2020
Craig Fernandez

Craig Fernandez

Editor, Arizona Trooper Magazine

Those within the Law Enforcement community have seen this day coming and even predicted it, but we have all tried our best to avoid it. Yet here we are.

We are sure you have seen the latest political ads showing someone calling 911 for assistance and getting a voicemail recording. As farfetched as that seems, we are headed in that direction whether by choice or not. It begs the question, when we need law enforcement the most, who will answer the call?

Recent surveys by organizations like the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) have proven what many departments throughout the country have foretold. Police officers are leaving the job, they are retiring sooner, and recruitment is becoming practically impossible.

At police agencies across the country, they are having trouble keeping and hiring police officers. The PERF survey described above showed three areas confirming the trend, a decrease in applications, early exits and higher rates of retirement. Agencies have reported that there has been an over 60% decrease in new applications. Hiring non-white/minority applicants and female officers have proven to be the most difficult. Believe it or not, there are less full-time police officers across the country today than in 1997.

“Police officers are leaving the job, they are retiring sooner, and recruitment is becoming practically impossible.”

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Officers are retiring sooner and leaving for other careers. 29% of those voluntarily leaving do so within one year of joining and another 40% leave within five years. With all the time and money invested in training officers and getting the right candidates, this is at the end of the day a losing battle. Younger people today see the hours that come with the job as long, erratic, and frankly dangerous. This perception has steeply increased after street protests over police shootings and the media coverage that comes with them.

Is there any doubt why recruiting has become so difficult? With today’s constant negative media focus, introduction of stricter policies, body cameras, and higher rates of stress and PTSD than ever before, it is a wonder anyone wants to be a police officer today. The sense of service and higher calling that once drew people to the field simply does not exist as much in today’s generation of instant gratification and ‘what have you done for me lately’ mentality. Today’s youth have been projected to have 14 different jobs by the time they are 30. Staying the course in a field with lower than average pay and high stress is not likely.

Not only is there a price to be paid within the policing field but it affects all our communities as well. Due to the increased scrutiny over the most recent years and negative media attention, officers are less willing to put themselves in the cross hairs on a daily basis. Research across the country has shown officers are making fewer public contacts and stopping less suspicious persons. In turn, crime is rising, and public confidence is falling. How do we stop this?

Multi-agency gang task force operations.

Photograph by Shayne Gastelum via AZDPS

Some agencies have lowered standards, though this helps fill the ranks slightly, it also lowers the quality of the very people you need to be beyond reproach and at their best 24/7. Some agencies are recruiting laterally from other agencies. This simply cannibalizes the already dwindling pool of quality officers out in the real world and creates issues for the agency being left behind. Some agencies have tried appealing to today’s young people with lip-syncing videos, social media campaigns, and other digital solutions, but most of the people these attract are not going to turn into the officers we need them to be and most of them won’t stay long enough to find out.

All of these are simple, reactionary solutions that do nothing to solve the larger issue. We, as a society, need to fix this problem. We created it and it is up to us to correct it…

“The American policing profession may be facing the most fundamental questioning of its legitimacy in decades,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, in a 2017 organizational newsletter. “The very essence of policing is being debated in many cities, often because of controversial video recordings of police officers’ actions. Community trust has eroded, and the professionalism of the police is being questioned.”

In my humble opinion, we are simply projecting our failures on to others and making them responsible for solving them. The real solution is easy, the question is do we all have enough of a sense of self-responsibility to own the problem and do what is necessary to fix it?

Investigating crimes statewide.

Photograph by Shayne Gastelum via AZDPS

At a societal level, we need to stop looking at police officers as the hall monitors, we all love to hate. The ones that keep us from doing all the fun things that are against the rules. We need to stop telling our kids to behave or we will have that cop arrest them. We need to start handling our own family problems like adults and stop asking police officers to handle them for us. We need to start looking at them once again as the people voluntarily standing between us and the chaos and evil, we all know exists. It is not a fairy tale; the data proves this every day. If all of us were as great people as we think we are, then we would not need them at all, would we? We need to respect them, help them be better, give them the tools they need to do the job that quite frankly we asked them to do and more importantly we need them to do.

At a governmental level, we need to stop allowing politicians to use them as pawns to get quick political points and leverage their support for political gain. Law Enforcement needs to be appreciated and shown that they are, with appropriate priority in pay as part of local budgets and recognition of the role they play in not only helping us design our laws properly, but how we apply them to the public at large.

“They see the worst in us every day and we usually only see them when we are having our worst day.”

Keeping Arizona’s highways safe …

Photograph by Shayne Gastelum via AZDPS

 They exist to help us and protect us, when we realize that and see them properly, we all succeed. Once we can do these things, even if it’s only with our local government, we will see a change in ourselves and our youth. After all, they learn how to see police officers and how to treat them from us. Once they again see them in the right light and their profession as a noble one, then maybe more of us will want to be one of them. It will take a long time, maybe a generation or maybe decades, but if we do not start, it never will.

They see the worst in us every day and we usually only see them when we are having our worst day. We need to recognize that and look at ourselves in the mirror more often.

Finally, we all need to learn that we need to hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior before we can ask others to be responsible for theirs, let alone enforcing ours.

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Our Tireless Efforts Towards DPS Pay Raises

Our Tireless Efforts Towards DPS Pay Raises

As department pay raises are at the top of everyone’s priority list we wanted to let you know that we work tirelessly towards this goal. We wanted to take a minute to share a letter we received from Axiom Public Affairs regarding our efforts.

We thank all of you for your support!

June 1, 2016

 

Sergeant Jimmy Chavez President

Arizona State Troopers Association PO Box 6253

Phoenix, Arizona 85005

 

Sergeant Chavez,

During this past legislative session, the Arizona State Troopers Association made it their number one priority to address the Department of Public Safety’s pay disparity.   For years, DPS employees’ compensation has significantly lagged behind that of their peers in other agencies across Arizona. Ongoing efforts to fully address the more than 20% pay disparity have resulted in small gains -a 2% pay increase in the 2014 session for all DPS employees and a 3% pay increase for sworn and highway patrol civilians in the fiscal year 2017 budget passed this session.

While progress still needs to be made, it is certain that neither of these pay increases would have happened without the strong support, commitment, and efforts of your association.   No other association weighed in on this past year’s push for a 5% pay increase for all DPS employees.

The AZ Troopers began the effort in the fall of 2015 by meeting with key members of the Ducey administration to educate and explain the impact this pay disparity is having on DPS recruitment and retention. Beginning in January of this year, you sent a letter to all members of the Legislature, along with the most recent DPS Annual Pay Report, showing the challenges facing the agency. This was followed up with numerous face-to-face meetings with legislators to discuss the need for pay adjustments across the board for the agency, as well as two e-mails to legislators asking for their support of a 5% pay increase for all DPS employees. Your lobbying team repeatedly met with legislators urging their support and encouraged key supporters to continue to bring this budget item to House and Senate leadership.

To my knowledge, no other law enforcement association reached out to legislators asking for their support of a pay increase during the entire session. It was the work of your lobbying team on the ground and the efforts by the AZ Troopers that made it possible for DPS to get the pay increase included in the budget for the next fiscal year. We still have work to do and the AZ Troopers efforts need to continue and grow in scope. However, it is clear that without the continued leadership and commitment of the Arizona State Troopers Association, this issue will not receive the attention and consideration it deserves. We look forward to continuing the efforts to bring parity to DPS pay and ensuring DPS is the leading Jaw enforcement agency in Arizona.

 

Sincerely,

Kelsey Lundy Partner

 

Make-A-Wish: How it all started…

Make-A-Wish: How it all started…

Chris’ Wish

During a long nighttime stakeout kneeling in some desert weeds in the spring of 1980, U.S. Customs Agent Tommy Austin tells Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Ron Cox his problem.

His wife’s friend Linda has a small son named Chris Greicius who is probably going to die of leukemia.   The seven-year-old boy yearns to be a police officer “to catch bad guys” with Austin.  Running into bureaucratic hesitation at Customs, Austin asks Cox if maybe DPS can do something.  “I’ll rent a helicopter myself if I have to,” Austin says.

Cox takes the request to DPS spokesman Allan Schmidt, who asks DPS Director Ralph Milstead.  He gives Schmidt carte blanche to grant Chris’ wish.  Soon Austin receives a call from Chris’ mom saying that she doesn’t think he can hang on much longer.

“None of us had any idea what we were getting into at the time,” Schmidt will recall 30 years later.  He draws other people in: Officer Jim Eaves will bring his patrol car, and Officer Frank Shankwitz his motorcycle, to meet the DPS helicopter flying Chris to headquarters.  On April 29, Chris comes from Scottsdale Memorial Hospital to the empty lot by DPS at Lewis and 19th Avenue.  There he and his parents are given a tour.  That’s when Lt. Col. Dick Schaefer gives the boy a “Smokey Bear” hat and one of his own old badges, and Chris becomes Arizona’s first and only honorary DPS officer.

Everyone who meets the beaming boy chewing bubble gum wants to help.  At the end of the day, some of those involved meet in a spontaneous group hug and realize they don’t want the day to be the end of it.  They also know they don’t have much time.

Two of them, Cox and Eaves, go to John’s Uniforms, the business that makes all DPS uniforms, and order one Chris’ size.  Employees work all night to have it ready the next day.  A group of officers take the uniform to his house, where Shankwitz sets up cones for Chris to steer his battery-powered motorcycle through to qualify for a motorcycle officer’s wings.

But when they return the next day to present the wings to Chris, he’s gone back into the hospital.  With his DPS gifts all around him, clutching his new wings, Chris gives a last smile for the men who have done so much for him in such a short time. He passes May 3.

He was only seven years, 269 days old when he died. But he taught me about being a man. Even though he was only a boy. I can tell you that because of meeting Chris, I am an entirely different man. Ron Cox said the same thing. He said he didn’t fear death anymore, because he knew Chris would be there waiting for him. ”

— Tommy Austin, Make-A-Wish® co-founder and retired U.S. Customs agent

Beginning of a Foundation

Officers Frank Shankwitz and Scott Stahl fly back to Illinois for the funeral; Chris is given the ceremony of a fellow fallen officer.

From the time the two officers land in Chicago to when they leave again, word spreads of their story, and they are amazed at how strangers are affected by it.  They talk on the flight home of making this the beginning of something wonderful for children.

Meanwhile in Phoenix, similar discussions are taking place. At an officer’s retirement party, Shankwitz talks to Kathy McMorris, the wife of a DPS officer, about creating a wish-granting organization.That summer, a group of working-class DPS officers, friends and family gather.  That meeting marks the beginning of Make-A-Wish.

The first donation is $15, given to Shankwitz by a grocery store manager.  For month records, bills and change are kept in envelopes carried around by founders.  In November of 1980 the group receives its tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization.   By the following spring the group has raised $2000 and can grant its first official wish.

    • 1/8 Linda and Chris the day he received his uniform and wings.

    • 2/8 Allan Schmidt fastens a DPS helmet on Chris Greicius. Photo courtesy of Linda Pauling

    • 3/8 Frank Shankwitz lets Chris sit on his motorcycle. Photo courtesy of Linda Pauling

    • 4/8 Tommy Austin and his buddy Chris Greicius. Photo courtesy of Linda Pauling

    • 5/8 Kathy McMorris and Board Member David Pennington at the first Wish House in 1989.

    • 6/8 Linda Pauling in 2011. Photo credit: Lisa Schnebly Heidinger

    • 7/8 Kathy McMorris in 2011. Photo credit: Lisa Schnebly Heidinger

  • 8/8 Scott Stahl, Frank Shankwitz, Tommy Austin, Allan Schmidt at the Make-A-Wish office.

    8/8Photo credit: Lisa Schnebly Heidinger

    8/8

DPS FY2017 Pay Increase

DPS FY2017 Pay Increase

Many of you are aware that Arizona State Troopers Association (AZ Troopers) has been
working feverishly on securing funding in the FY2017 budget for a pay increase for all DPS
employees. When the agency submitted its budget request last fall, requesting a 5% pay
increase for employees, each year for the next four fiscal years, AZ Troopers began
working with legislative leaders and the Governor’s office to support that request.
Throughout this legislative session, your Association has been meeting with legislators
and staff from the Governor’s office, detailing the need to address pay for DPS employees
in the budget process. From the start of session in January, we have strongly urged the
legislature to consider funding $8.9M to the agency for employee pay, which would have
provided a 5% pay increase for all employees.

In the early morning hours of May 4, the House and Senate reached an agreement on the
budget and passed House Bill 2695, General Appropriations Act; 2016-2017. In that bill,
which was transmitted to Governor Ducey for his signature, the legislature approved $4.6
million in funding to the agency for a pay raise. The legislature adjourned on the morning
of May 7 and the budget was signed by the Governor today, May 10.

The problem with the pay raise lies in the language for the appropriation. The bill language
states: “The operating lump sum appropriation and GIITEM line item include $4,440,000 from the
state general fund, $215,800 from the Arizona highway patrol fund and $30,900 from the
risk management revolving fund for a three percent aggregate pay full-year pay adjustment
for sworn officer positions. The appropriated amount also includes $156,400 from the
state General fund for a three percent aggregate pay full-year pay adjustment for civilian
employees of the highway patrol division.”

Early on in this process, the membership was asked to be involved by establishing
communication with their legislators. This must continue and increase. This is something
that cannot happen with just a single person working on the issue.
We will be reaching out to Director Milstead in an effort to determine what the agency’s
plan will be. As always, AZ Troopers will continue to work with legislative leaders during
the off-session period to continue addressing DPS pay.

AZ Troopers realizes the impact the needs of its members has on family. Pay has a
significant impact on all of our families and we will continue to address this issue until we
are satisfied with the results.