TUCSON – Domestic violence victims and Tucson police officers are concerned about 911 response times.
Jane does not want to reveal her full name. She filed an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend.
“He's just a horrible guy,” Jane said. “I didn't trust him around my daughter. He's unpredictable.”
She said she called police on him multiple times, and, with a quicker response, one of those calls could have led to an arrest.
“He would always leave when I went to call [police],” Jane said. “So in that way it was a deterrent, I guess. But I hoped that they would stop him from coming back.”
Doug Musick is a retired Tucson Police Department sergeant. His last assignment was supervising the domestic violence unit.
“One of those cases is going to erupt, and somebody is going to die,” Musick said. “And I have no doubt that's going to happen, and I’m surprised that it hasn't already. But I guarantee that it will.”
Domestic violence victims can easily file for orders of protection. If police respond and catch an abuser in violation, they will make an arrest.
Musick said the responses are too slow, and detectives are not following up on violation reports.
“That person is going to come back, and it's going to escalate,” Musick said. “And every time they come back it's going to re-escalate. And it's going to get worse and worse and worse until somebody gets killed, or an officer shows up, and it's a very explosive situation, and an officer gets hurt.”
The Tucson Police Officers Association provided a sample of records that show responses that took longer than 1 hour. Roland Gutierrez is the organization’s president.
“Cops are upset right now,” Gutierrez said. “They’re frustrated. They are more embarrassed that they are not able to provide the quality of service that the citizens of Tucson deserve.”
He said it is not the fault of the department or command staff. The problem is the lack of resources because officers are leaving the city for other agencies.
“The solution is getting more cops on the street, having more cops to respond to these calls” Gutierrez said, “because this is just one aspect that isn't getting an appropriate police response. There are many other calls that are getting the same negative response as well.”
He said police are responding quickly to the highest priority calls, but the lower-level calls are not getting the proper attention.
Tucson City Council Member Steve Kozachik said order of protection calls should be a high priority and get an immediate response.
“As to staffing, we have academies in place,” Kozachik said. “Nobody's asleep at the wheel. We have lots of applicants. The challenge though is finding qualified applicants.”
He said officer retention is not the issue. Law enforcement recruiting is a national problem.
“Every year we look at this during our budget cycle,” Kozachik said. “TPD competes with the fire department. They compete with roads. They compete with parks. They compete with all the other core services that we offer within the City of Tucson.”
The City of Tucson has budgeted $3.9 million for training new officers this fiscal year.