Budget: More officers on Surprise Police wish list

BUDGET IMPORTANT DATES

  • Department Presentations: Through Tuesday, April 2
  • City Manager Recommended Budget: Tuesday, April 16
  • Tentative Budget Adoption: Tuesday, May 7
  • Final Budget Adoption: Tuesday, June 4

This is the first in a series of stories on the Surprise Fiscal Year 2020 budget discussions. This week we look at the Surprise Police Department.

By Jason Stone, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA

More traffic patrols means more overall public safety.

That’s the way Surprise Police Chief Terry Young views it.

As the Surprise City Council plows through the Fiscal Year 2020 budget over the next few weeks, dealing with the city’s largest department will be crucial as always.

Mr. Young wants more officers who can handle traffic duty, not only to prepare for the city’s expected growth on the roads, but as a way to not drain resources from neighborhoods he wants to keep safe.

“The one thing I never hear from police chiefs is, ‘You know, I just have too many people,’” Mr. Young told the City Council when the department presented its budget needs to the city earlier this month.

The Surprise Police Department currently employs 149 sworn staff members. That’s about 1.1 officers per 1,000 residents. But Young said that’s lower than the Valley-wide average, which hovers around 1.5 to 1.6 per 1,000.

The ratio for Surprise would have been worse had the city not added dozens of police officers, firemen and prosecutors a few years ago in an overall effort to ramp up public safety.

“We need to start looking ahead as revenues allow and as our city’s growth allows,” Mr. Young said. “(A ratio of) 1.3 would allow us to provide service to those who need to meet that future growth.”

But Mr. Young said the good news for Surprise is the city is on the “low end” for property crime and the “extreme low end” for violent crime.

“What I look at more than numbers is the service need,” Mr. Young said. “So, right now, what I’m prioritizing is we’ve all heard from our constituents — our community members across the city — is an increased focus on traffic safety.”

Mr. Young said the city is seeing positive results from the “Drive Wise Surprise” campaign it created a couple years ago.

“We’re starting to see the impacts of that,” Mr. Young said.

Budget breakdown

The police department is the city’s largest with a budget of nearly $30 million.

About 95 percent of its funding comes from the city’s general fund with the rest spread across grants, towing funds and other areas.

About 89 percent of department’s expenses go right to personnel. And the need to add more officers will only grow over the next decade with traffic expected to get heavier along with the city’s growth.

Not only that, but Mr. Young said the department has a need for more officers who are qualified for supervisor positions.

Surprise Assistant Finance Director Holly Osborn said the department budgets out about $100,000 a year for each officer it hires. That is to cover a base salary, pension, health care expenses and taxes.

Osborn said to outfit each officer, it runs the city $16,000. To upfit each vehicle, it costs around $69,000.

Capital gains

Beside personnel needs, the police department is also eyeing a few capital programs over the next five years.

Those include a planned $2 million police training facility, as well as the Public Safety Evidence and Readiness Center, a shared venture with the Surprise Fire Department that will store evidence and tactical gear on city-owned land at 134th and Foxfire drives.

Both the police and fire departments are proposing to kick in $9 million from their budgets for the 29,000-square-foot facility, which is planned for at least 30 years of growth.

The city said the current Police Evidence and Property facility on Litchfield Road, north of Bell Road, has reached 85 to 90 percent of its storage capacity.

Mobile command

As for vehicles, District 4 Councilmember Ken Remley questioned Mr. Young about the need for a new mobile command van.

Mr. Young told Mr. Remley the current van is too old to function with today’s technology.

“It’s substantially outdated and does not provide the size nor the technology that we need to accurately, properly function at a crime scene or a significant incident or an emergency,” Mr. Young said. “This command van will give us the added capability that we don’t have today.”

Mr. Young said the officers needed space to operate efficiently inside the van, plus a new one would come with two communications consoles as a backup to the department’s main communication system in case of failure.

The city will continue to listen to department budget presentations at its regular work study meetings through Tuesday, April 2.

City Manager Mike Frazier will present his recommended budget at the Tuesday, April 16 meeting.

The City Council will be asked to adopt a tentative budget on Tuesday, May 7, with final approval scheduled for Tuesday, June 4.

Editor’s note: Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, at jstone@newszap.com, or on Twitter at @thestonecave.



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