Sep. 19, 2014 (San Diego) San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman shared the recruitment and retention numbers for the department, at the Living Neighborhoods and Safety Committee on Sept. 18. The numbers indicate a deepening crisis for staffing and retention for the department.
While the surface numbers, of 160 officers hired last fiscal year, with 162 lost tell part of the story, they do not tell the full story.
The department should have 2013 officers. This includes every officer from the Chief of Police all the way to the recruit just starting at the Academy. Yet, the department only has 1847 officers. This leaves the department with a current staffing deficit of 166 officers.
Other data reveals the depth of the crisis. Since the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, two months ago, 35 officers have left the department, with at least nine going to other departments. Moreover, 16 applicants joined other departments.
The picture does not end with the sworn officers, since this extends to the civilian support staff. Positions are budgeted at 526, but the department has 472, with a net deficit of 52 positions. Since the beginning of FY 2015, 13 have left the agency, with at least one joining another police department.
Chief Zimmerman told the committee, “We are losing ground.”
The IBA did weigh in, and the representative pointed out that their assumed numbers are nowhere close to actual attrition. The budget assumed nine officers leaving, but the actual number currently is 14.5 for FY 2015, each month.
The city is spending aggressively in recruitment and retention, to the tune of 7.3 m. Still, all these initiatives are Band-Aid measures.
Carol Kim, candidate for City Council for District Six told the committee, “as you know it’s been am issue for a long time. We are at a point where we have reached beyond crisis levels.” She suggested that salaries need to go up, but she also suggested using surpluses, preventing a raise in taxes.
Her words were echoed by Jeff Jordan, vice president of the Police Officer Association (POA), who told the committee members that they “were tired of it, we are tired of losing officers to other places.” He pointed out that an officer going to the Sherriff’s department, just by changing the color of his uniform, is making $18,000 more a year.
He also said that officers are putting their pay stubs on Facebook, which leads to more personnel taking that step.
President of the POA Jeff Marvel said that they want to reopen their contract. They cannot hire their way out of this. They need to have better pay if they are to be competitive in the market. The Chief echoed this, and pointed that police hiring is a challenge in the current environment.
Chief Zimmerman also said that the department gets 1.2 million calls a year to the communications center. When asked about officers “chasing the radio” she said that it is happening. But she also said that in spite of all the problems the department is committed to community policing, as well as mentoring younger officers.
Regarding proactive efforts she also said “our proactive time has been reduced every single year, it usually occurs in five to 10 minute increments.” Yet, the department attends over 140 meetings every month.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith did state that his department is starting to notice a problem with the inexperience of the department. He also added “an experienced officer is a gem.”
Council Member Mark Kersey said that budget priorities are a zero sum game. If people want more cops on the streets, then they will have to deal with more potholes. The city, unlike the federal government, cannot print more cash. While Council Member Ed Harris said that he wants to leave with this well on the way to being solved. He said that the lack of experience in a young force was going to impact public safety.
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