They’ll tackle theft. They’ll tackle vandalism. But the only weapon they’ll carry is a police radio.
Enter Maricopa Police Department’s newest members of the force — public safety aides. They’re slated to hit the city beat soon.
The new officers don’t brandish the guns and badges you might expect, but they’re a helpful new weapon in the department’s arsenal, Maricopa Police Chief Mark Goodman tells us.
Public safety aides are akin to the city’s park rangers and code enforcers, but with a few extra privileges. Nearby cities like Phoenix, Mesa and Gilbert have rolled out such new staffers to handle a tick in calls for service.
Goodman said he plans to see public safety aides respond to calls of code and parking violations, but also petty theft, vandalism, criminal damage and traffic collisions. The goal: to give sworn officers the levity to prioritize more urgent calls.
“It takes resources and repurposes them in a way so we don’t have to send sworn officers to those things that non-sworn personnel can handle,” Goodman said.
The safety aides will carry police radios and must call for backup if tensions rise.
Goodman said the position opens the door for people eyeing a career in law enforcement. Some may be groomed into sworn officers in the future and replaced with new public safety aides.
They’re not out on the streets quite yet, Goodman explained. The city is in the process of hiring a pair of candidates who will go through field training that lasts “a fraction” of the time it takes a sworn officer to graduate.
More bang for your buck?
The city will pay each of the two new aides between $52,528 and $79,858 annually. This year’s budget allocated money for the new position.
The lowest-paid Maricopa Police Department officer earns $53,719 yearly, just a nudge above the base salary for a public safety aide. If each PSA earned the upper echelon of their salary range, in theory, the city could hire as many as three rookie cops instead.
On the other hand, at base pay, the city could staff both aides for the price of one sworn officer earning just over the median paycheck.
The median salary at the department was $84,814 last year, which was 95% higher than the national median.
If the program is successful, Goodman said it may expand alongside the community. He’s mulling adding more public safety aides down the road.
Sometimes dubbed “community safety officers” or “public service officers” in nearby cities, similar roles — a growing trend in the U.S. since national unrest in 2020 —were lauded by community members.
A recent survey by InMaricopa found city residents are split on whether the public safety aides are a good investment when juxtaposed with the notion of adding badges and guns to the force.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Dana Lewis. “If an officer and aide get to the scene, the officer can always be free to leave for an emergency if it’s deemed they don’t need to be onsite.”
Justin Hernandez, meanwhile, said he believes the program is a waste of money.
“We need more police officers, not aides,” Hernandez said.
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