Phoenix Debate: How Many Police Does a City Need?

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Phoenix is continuing its march toward 3,125 police officers by 2018, with recruiting efforts that restarted in 2015 after a seven-year hiring freeze. If approved by the City Council this month, the Phoenix Police Department should hit that goal, The Arizona Republic reports. However, rank-and-file police union officials are urging City Council members to reject this plan and dial up the hiring, to the tune of an extra 1,000 sworn officers over the next few years. This could cost an initial $125 million. Just how many police officers are needed to keep a city safe?

Experts say there is no magic formula to this equation. Each agency faces a different set of circumstances including population density, workload and cultural and geographic factors. The 10 U.S. cities with the largest populations average about 2.5 officers per 1,000 citizens, according to FBI data from 2015. Phoenix was on the lower end of this scale. In 2015, the ratio was at about 1.78 officers per 1,000 citizens, but that figure should rise to just short of two officers for every 1,000 citizens by 2018. New York had the highest officers ratio for the top 10 largest cities, with about 4.1 officers per 1,000 residents, while San Jose had the lowest, with 0.9 officers per 1,000 residents. The union said Phoenix’s deficit of officers puts public safety at risk and will continue to be a threat even when the goal number has been reached.

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