Home Mesa Places Richardson: Mesa public safety needs a big change

Richardson: Mesa public safety needs a big change

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Bill Richardson

Mesa has some serious public safety problems looking them smack dab in the middle of their faces.

Reports about understaffing, slower response times and increased costs for police and fire are on the front page and headline the six o’clock news. The current policing and fire-medical model Mesa uses continues to be increasingly more and more costly and now there are questions of efficiency and effectiveness.

Mesa has tied itself to what is fast becoming an outdated model of providing public safety services. Models that haven’t evolved adequately and continue to be driven by unrealistic statistics that quantify quality, special interest groups in the community, and even within the police and fire departments, and from unions that have agendas beyond their employers and sometimes even the communities they’re paid to serve.

Skyrocketing pension costs have also put Mesa in a precarious position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul.

To even begin to solve the money problems Mesa will need to be completely honest and open about the facts of life when it comes to public safety and the overall goal of community quality of life. And that means police and fire are just two seats at a big table of city departments that all pitch in to make Mesa a good city.

Mesa must look forward to when it’s closer to a million people and a global destination rather than it being close to a half-million and still getting giddy about the light rail and the new Cubs facility.

The Mesa Police Department has been coerced into expanding beyond it basic priorities and in doing so they’ve left huge holes in city safety. Pet projects, warm and fuzzy PR programs, extra staffing at the command levels and costly special units have sucked the cash out of MPD’s piggy bank.

Now it’s up to City Hall to figure out what’s really needed and what isn’t? Leaving cuts and changes to those who have a vested interest in preservation of the status quo can be a big mistake.

In looking at the MPD organizational chart it’s easy to see the favorites in the police food chain and those who have come to love the good life at police headquarters. Please tell me why the police chief needs a PR sergeant and a sizable staff and police officers referred to as an adjutant who is paid $75,000 or $80,000 plus benefits to be a command officer’s “gopher?”

It’s glowingly obvious that patrol cars go unfilled because there are too many cops riding a desk at 130 N. Robson. Patrol officers, critical detective positions, CSI, communications and records must be fully staffed and supported before anything else in a police department gets money, bodies and anyone gets promoted.

City Hall’s demands that the police chief and fire chief list cuts they can make only trims the current failed models of delivering essential services. It will only put a band-aid on a problem that will come back every year until the system is changed to deliver high quality services and affordable prices.

The system is broken and if Mesa’s mayor, council and city manager really want to insure good public safety and quality of life it’s going to take more than a snip here and a snip there and a critical examination by someone who doesn’t have a horse in the Mesa public safety spending race. Mesa public safety needs a big change or residents and businesses better be ready for a huge tax increase.

– Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective.

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