Arizona DPS Leaves Vacancies Unfilled To Pay For Equipment
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: The new state budget that begins in July includes a pay raise for Department of Public Safety troopers. It comes in response to a police staffing shortage across the state. Col. Frank Milstead is the director of DPS. He says he hopes the raises will help attract new recruits. But he also says some of their vacancies have to be left open, so the department can buy other equipment.
COL. FRANK MILSTEAD: We carry about 180 sworn vacancies. That's so we can buy cars, computer upgrades, radios — things like that. Things that have been put on the backburner for a number of years during the Great Recession.
GOLDSTEIN: Milstead says DPS SWAT teams, bomb squads and unmarked vehicles are not explicitly funded in the budget. The department has to use staffing money to fund those areas. Milstead he hopes next year's budget will fund an upgrade of the department's radio system. He says about 40 percent of the state, mostly in rural areas, lacks state police radio coverage.
MILSTEAD: How do we get more troopers out there especially in the rural areas, so the troopers have backup, they have someone that's out there to help them? Some of the most prolific relationships we have, the most solid, are with some of our sheriffs because in again rural Arizona, remote Arizona, those sheriff's offices are strained too They're understaffed. Their people are underpaid.
GOLDSTEIN: Since the Great Recession police departments across the country have struggled to increase their ranks to pre-recession levels.