The Investigators

Feb 18, 2014 1:14 PM by Matthew Schwartz

N4T Investigators: Mayor's security detail

Tucson-Jonathan Rothschild is the first Tucson mayor in years to have a bodyguard. In fact, he has two.

One police officer was assigned to work outside the mayor's office a year ago this month, after a suspicious package came addressed to Rothschild. It turned out to be a blanket. Then in late November, a second cop was added to the detail.

The officers accompany Rothschild to and from public appearances. Some cops, privately, and city leaders, think residents would be better served with the two officers patrolling the streets.

Councilman Steve Kozachik told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "Unless he's getting some pretty explicit threats, then I don't see the justification for it. We have a budget situation, we're down cops right now, we're going to lose some more perhaps later on this year when we get deeper into the budget situation. The question is what's the proper deployment for the officers, and in my opinion it's out in the community."

We asked Mayor Rothschild, "Could they be better used on patrol?" He said, "They would not be on patrol. They would be answering the calls, because we found that's the effective use."

Rothschild says his bodyguards don't cost taxpayers extra money, that they're members of the Alternative Response Call unit. Known as ARC, the 10-member unit started last March to respond to lower priority calls. Chief Roberto Villasenor says since ARC started, average response time to non-emergency calls has improved from 95 minutes to 57 minutes. The chief and the mayor say the original request for protection came from Rothschild. The chief says he decided to add a second cop to the detail, because one isn't enough if someone attacks the mayor.

The chief says he's heard from some people who say Tucson's mayor doesn't need bodyguards. Villasenor told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "The part that gets to me here, is in Tucson, after January 8 of 2011, we can't sit here and say that these types of events don't occur in our community."

The shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords and 18 others prompted local law enforcement to re-think security policies. Three years later, according to their police spokesmen, the mayors of Chandler, Tempe and Mesa do not have bodyguards; the mayor of Phoenix does. Rothschild says Tucson was the largest city in the U.S. that did not have security for a mayor until last year.

We live in the wild, wild west, where people are able to carry guns just about everywhere.

Mike Polakowski, a professor in UA's School of Government and Public Policy, thinks Tucson's mayor should have bodyguards. He told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "We live in the wild, wild west, where people are able to carry guns just about everywhere. We ought to be able to afford our public officials some level of protection."

There is another complaint we've heard from police sources, not having to do with protection, but the mayor's meals. Sources say some cops are not happy about having to order food for the mayor.

We asked Mayor Rothschild, "Do you ever ask any of your security detail to get you food? He said, "When I'm out and about out, stop in, in a restaurant, not even a restaurant, always drive-thru, I always pay for it."

The mayor says he never sends police officers out to get his food, that sometimes when he's out with them, going to or from an event, sitting in the back seat at the drive-thru, he tells them what he wants and they place his order.

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