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Study Finds SD Police Paid Less; Struggling to Fill Positions

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A study released today shows San Diego City police officers are taking home less money than police in other departments regionally. Heather Hill has more.

Mayor Sanders, San Diego’s former chief of police, said the problem stems from too many vacant positions, and a shrinking pool of qualified applicants. This means police departments are in tight competition to attract and retain officers, and San Diego is having trouble keeping up.

The shortage is being felt across the country as "baby boomer" officers are retiring. But San Diego is also losing police to higher-paying departments elsewhere. The city-commissioned study compares salaries and benefits across 19 different public safety agencies, and shows San Diego falls behind in take-home pay. When healthcare premiums and pension contributions are taken into consideration, San Diego falls in the bottom 25 percent of the group studied. 

Most city officers take home at least $10,000 less each year than officers at other agencies. While crime in San Diego fell 2.3 percent from last year, police chief Bill Lansdowne says if we keep losing officers at the current rate, citizens will feel the consequences.

Bill Lansdowne: We are seeing increases in the area of armed robbery; we're seeing increases in the area of homicides. Overall crime is down, but if we're not able to correct the problem, we're going to see some more increases.

Mayor Sanders says police salaries must be competitive to keep officers in the city. But money is tight. Sanders is preparing to enter contract negotiations with the police officer's union. The mayor wouldn’t disclose details, but said an agreement must be fair to taxpayers.

Jerry Sanders: There is no capacity for a tax increase. You have to go to the voters for a tax increase. You can't get to the voters before 2008, and before voters will vote for a tax increase, they have to trust city government.

There are currently 214 vacant positions at the police department. 

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