Police bike unit at mall casualty of budget cuts

Jim Walsh
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 6, 2008 07:35 AM
Mesa police disbanded a bicycle squad working near Superstition Springs Mall and returned a street crimes detective to patrol as part of a series of redeployments to cut overtime spending.

Staffing levels on patrol shifts either stayed the same or were reduced one or two officers as the department refocused its mission on handling emergency calls first and less urgent calls later – possibly much later.

“There were some days where staffing levels came down a little bit. Other days they stayed the same,” Assistant Police Chief John Meza said. “Most of them either stayed the same or came down a little bit.”

“We think that this will maintain officer safety and public safety. There will be potentially some more wait times.”

Some non-emergency calls will be put on hold until the next shift reports for duty.

The goal is reduce overtime spending of about 4,000 hours a month as city officials ordered each department to cut spending 5 percent in the wake of anticipated shortfalls in sales tax revenues from an economic downtown.

“I know there will be instances when we have to call people in, but we want to make it as minimal as possible,” Meza said.

“I’m skeptical it will work. We had minimum staffing before. Now, you are going two (officers) below that,” said Sgt. Fabian Cota, president of the Mesa Police Association.

The longer waits experienced by residents calling in vandalism, car burglaries or other non-emergency crimes won’t make a difficult job any easier, Cota said.

“People are going to be upset, the longer they wait,” he said. “We’re going through some tough times. I think some of the officers’ morale might suffer.”
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