Originally published July 31, 2012 at 11 a.m., updated July 31, 2012 at 2:21 p.m.
Guests: SDPD Chief William Lansdowne
SDPD Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman
SDPD Budget Plan
San Diego's violent-crime rate has been trending down for several years. The budget for the San Diego Police Department has followed the same trajectory, trending downward in operating funds, staffing and equipment replacement over the same period. In recent months, however, violent crime in San Diego has risen.
Police Chief William Lansdowne and Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman have presented a plan to reverse this lengthy budgetary slide to the City Council's public safety committee. If adopted, the plan would funnel $11.6 million in additional funding to the SDPD every year for five years and, the department believes, put a stop to the nascent crime wave.
The funds would allow the police department to increase academy classes from 25 to 35, a level which would overcome the attrition rate to reach current budgeted staffing levels of 1969 sworn officers by 2019. The plan also includes replacement of the Computer Aided Dispatch System (CAD, or 9-1-1), which was installed nearly 25 years ago.
Lansdowne told KPBS that the police have endured budget cuts but now believe the city has the money to increase their funds. He said his department needs the extra police to not just decrease crime but improve the services it provides.
“It’s well documented for our ability to provide better service to the community of San Diego," he said. "They’re asking for more service and we’re in a position I believe to provide that over a five year window.”
"As you look at the downsizing of government across the state of California and certainly within the county of San Diego, social services cut back, mental health services cut back, the first call and first responders at 3 a.m. is going to be the police department," he added. "And you want a department that's well managed, trained and staffed to be able to provide services because we, the police department, are one of the very last government agencies that still will come to your home for almost any reason to assist you with your issues and problems.
"And there are lots of people that need our services, and they need it quickly, and that's what this is all about, getting set up and ready for the next five years, and the needs for the community of San Diego."
Some have questioned the SDPD's use of crime-rate statistics for short periods, saying that over the long-term, violent crime in San Diego is trending downward, as it is in much of the country. The criticism has centered on the comparison of two five month periods - one with a very low rate of violent crime and the other, from January to May of 2012, with a higher rate.
But Zimmerman said the numbers are fair.
“As managers on the police department, we look at a number of different factors and just one of them was the crime rate," she said. "And it had been down for many years. And it was alarming to see just in the first five months of this year compared to last year that it was up 12.6 percent.”
The police department noted in the report to the City Council that the department has had to rely on overtime for personnel to meet the city's needs and on grants to replace equipment.
The request to increase the SDPD budget comes on the heels of Mayor Jerry Sanders' announcement in April that the city's budget crisis was over and that the next budget would be balanced with a surplus of some $119 million over the next five years.
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.