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Council approves police recruitment & retainment plan

The San Diego City Council on Monday unanimously approved a comprehensive plan to both recruit and retain police officers. The city faces a crisis as more cops are quitting. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps has more.

The mayor and police department submitted the plan. It calls for a quarter-million-dollar marketing campaign and raises the possibility of wage hikes for officers next year. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders says police staffing is at a crisis level. Nearly 40 percent of cops who are quitting are taking jobs in other cities.

Assistant Police Chief Bill Maheu says low pay has always been an obstacle to recruiting. Now, Maheu says the pool of young candidates is also shrinking.

Maheu: "And there are more job opportunities out there. We're seeing it across the nation right now with law enforcement, the military -- a lot of those more traditional jobs are not as attractive compared to the biotechs, the telecommunications jobs that are out there that these young men and women are as qualified for."

Truong Ta is a newly sworn officer who goes on patrol next week. He says the staffing crisis brought him here because he says he has a better shot at an early promotion. But Ta can't afford to live here.

Ta: "It's California, and I think no matter where you live, you have to have two sources of income if you're starting out. You hope to move up to San Diego? Hope to move up to San Diego, yeah, or around the area. Probably around close to the coming year."

Ta hopes to buy a small condo in or around San Diego. First he needs to sell his house in Hemet, about 110 miles away.

The department is trying to fill 189 vacancies. That's about 10 percent of the force.

For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.

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