Exactly a year ago today, Jan. 11, the Queen Creek Police Department launched and it has been full speed ahead with no looking back, until now.
"You have a plan, but when you see it on paper it's really an extraordinary group of people who have done amazing things and we've exceeded my expectations in my own mind," Police Chief Randy Brice said yesterday.
Brice spent just 18 months forming the police department of his dreams in Queen Creek. After the Town Council approved establishing a municipal police department at its March 18, 2020 meeting, following a comprehensive police study and extensive public outreach, they hired Brice. He began his role as the town's police chief on July 20, 2020. He was officially sworn in on Dec. 2, 2020.
"I only had a year to put this department together, really. Had to perform some triage and prioritize things," he said. "We are much further along than I thought we'd be and we have more to do. There's no checklist when you plan a police department and we did it in the middle of a pandemic. That meant supply issues we had to deal with (getting initial vehicles) and then with the national conversation being negative around police, we had a hard time recruiting officers.
"It's been a year of building while also doing the job and looking forward to be proactive in what we do," Brice continued. "I have an incredible team in town, not just in the department, but the community has been supportive, guiding me along the way."
He said that all requests from the community for his officers to come out and engage at schools, neighborhoods, scouts, businesses and community events had him assigning a sergeant and officer just to coordinate weekly community engagements because it was beginning to take up too much of his time growing the department in the first year.
"They all want to be a part of the police department and a good mix of these community engagement events are good," Brice said.
A year ago, he had two main goals for the department and they continue in 2023. Those goals were connecting with the community and to improve traffic safety, because that's what the community was asking for in its new police service.
The department's Drive to Arrive campaign will continue to be top priority in this second year. It's the department's resolution to focus on safe driving. Police are asking drivers to slow down, avoid distractions and remember the following tips: Allow ample time for travel to avoid aggressive driving and speeding; turn phone to "do not disturb" or keep it in your purse/bag while driving; slow down; stop on red and use common courtesy.
"The information outreach for this campaign has been extraordinary. It's all about changing behavior so everyone stays safe on the road. I think massive expansion of this town in the last year and the opening of State Route 24 alone has increased traffic on our roads," Brice said. "Those drivers south of us are now using our roads through town so we still have more work to do and we're actually looking at what we can do to expand the (Drive to Arrive) program to keep it active."
So, it's no surprise that traffic stops have been the No 1 thing in the department's first year, followed closely by community outreach. That public outreach also includes business checks done regularly by officers on patrol and the two school resource officers in place.
From January to December 2022, the Queen Creek Police Department issued a total of 2,581 citations, 2,722 written warnings, 1,071 verbal warnings and 6,374 traffic stops. The department now has 88 employees, with more to hire, Brice said. That includes 74 sworn staff and 14 professional civilian staff members.
"The backbone of our department though is still patrol," Brice said. The department recently added a K-9 unit, stay tuned for more on that at QueenCreekSunTimes.com.