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SDPD Attrition Rate Drops, But Staff Still Struggling With Shortage

Above: San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne addresses the media on May 10, 2011. Lansdowne was announcing a new plan meant to prevent officer misconduct.

The attrition rate of officers in the San Diego Police Department has been lowered to eight per month, but the agency is still struggling to build up its ranks, Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman said Wednesday.

In a report to the City Council's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, Zimmerman said the attrition rate is down from 10 per month, despite the loss of 30 officers and 14 recruits since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

The SDPD is budgeted for 1,977 officers, and employs 1,841 — with 82 of those in field training or academies, she said.

Numerous SDPD officers have been lured to nearby law enforcement agencies for several years now by higher take-home pay and better benefits.

Police Chief William Lansdowne said the competition for officers is fierce.

"It is a challenge for us," Lansdowne said. "Every city in San Diego — certainly in the county — but all across California are in the hiring mode."

Additionally, nearly half of the department's officers will be eligible to retire in four years.

According to Zimmerman, more than 150 officers have been added to the SDPD from the past five academies. The attrition, however, has resulted in a net gain of just nine officers during that time period, she said.

A five-year plan developed by the SDPD to address the problem calls for a return to the 2009 staffing level of 2,127 officers. At the current rate, the department will never get there, Zimmerman said.

"We've got to lower the attrition rate," she said.

The City Council recently voted to increase the uniform and equipment allowances for officers, and to fund attendance for recruiters at community events. Zimmerman said a recruiting fair over the weekend was "very successful," with Personnel Department staffers taking applications from 30 prospective officers.

The City Council this fall will take a fresh look at the pay and benefits given to officers, according to committee Chairwoman Marti Emerald.

Additionally, the candidates for the Nov. 19 special election for mayor have made police retention one of top issues in the campaign.

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