Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar sat down with KGUN this week to speak about the state of the department, among other topics.

Kasmar says he’s excited about the direction of the department.

I think the biggest challenge is still branding the public safety profession, he said.

He mentioned the police killings of Tyre Nichols in Memphis early this year and George Floyd in Minneapolis three summers ago, both sparking nationwide protests.

I think theres been so much negativity thats surrounded the profession. And rightfully so.

In 2021, Kasmar became interim director of Public Safety Communications, the layer between 911 callers and police.

Probably the most critical year of my career, he said. It gave me a moment to reflect [on TPD and the profession].

When he returned to TPD as Chief, Kasmar made it a point to invest in the departmentleading to pay raises, better equipment and a focus on mental wellness.

He says after years of losing officers, staffing is stabilizing.

Weve sent a lot of people into retirement broken. Experiences that they cant un-see, he said. Any investment that we make in staff that makes them a more balanced human being And happy and healthy at home, its gonna make them happy and healthy at work and thats gonna make better service delivery to the community.

But there are still many in the community who dont trust police, often disturbed by incidents involving use of force.

The reality is that is a fraction, a fraction of what we do, said Kasmar. We have over half a million contacts with the public a year. And year to date, weve been involved in eight exchanges of critical incidents, of highest levels of use of force.

Kasmar says police need to do a better job of talking about and promoting positive stories and community partnerships.

I think what were starting to see is the narrative changing. And people recognizing: police officers are not perfect… Tucson Police Department contributes to a safe community. But its not our responsibility. Thats a community responsibility.

Kasmar acknowledges that while the stakes are high, police recruits cover a wide range of material and skills in only nine months before becoming officers.

What I can promise you as chief is were still gonna have things that dont go perfect, he said. And I have to giveas the chiefour employees the space to be human beings and to make mistakes and to learn from those and to make sure theyre not catastrophic events.

Kasmar also discusses his focus on mental wellness within the department and the ‘Struggle Well’ program. That story will air on KGUN 9 this Sunday.