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San Diego Police Officers Get Bump In Uniform Allowance

A San Diego Police Department vehicle, December 11, 2010.

Photo by Nathan Rupert / Flickr

Above: A San Diego Police Department vehicle, December 11, 2010.

San Diego Police Officers Get Bump In Uniform Allowance

GUEST:

Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

Transcript

The San Diego City Council has approved an increase to the uniform and equipment allowance for San Diego police officers. The move is part of an effort to address the department's chronic shortage of officers, many of whom are leaving for better pay elsewhere.

The San Diego City Council on Friday approved spending $4 million to boost an equipment and uniform allowance for San Diego police officers in an effort to stem the flow of sworn personnel toward other law enforcement agencies.

At a special meeting, the council voted 6-0 to provide officers an additional $1,473 or $2,100 annually, depending on their classification. The deal was approved by at least 90 percent of the San Diego Police Officers Association's rank-and-file, though final results weren't available, city negotiator Timothy Davis said.

The funding for officers came out of a dispute between the City Council and Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who had sought $5 million to fund a special election this November. Council members voted in June to divert $3 million from the special election to police recruitment and retention. Faulconer vetoed a number of the council's alternative spending plans, but increased the police recruitment and retention line item to $4 million.

San Diego officials have tried for years to address their recruiting and retention problems, including previous allowance hikes and a five-year contract that will soon raise base pay. However, officers are leaving at more or less the same rate as they did before, with other departments in the area paying higher wages.

Chief Shelley Zimmerman told City News Service that as of Monday, 1,801 officers are on the force, which include recruits in the academy and new officers in field training. That figure is 239 personnel below the budgeted level. Four officers have left for other agencies since the fiscal year began July 1, she said.

"We're about ready to dip below 1,800 — I can't remember the last time we were below 1,800," Zimmerman said.

Another problem is about one-third of the total will be eligible for retirement over the next five years. The chief said an academy class with 45 officers is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks.

City officials said negotiations to amend the SDPOA contract in order to raise pay further are set to begin early this fall. But as Councilman Scott Sherman pointed out, those raises would have to be offset with cuts to other areas in the city budget.

"I just want to make sure everybody stays strong when you start getting those phone calls down the road from those people who are saying don't take away from my department to fund police," he said.

With the meeting taking place during the council's summer recess, members Barbara Bry, Chris Ward and Mark Kersey did not attend.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer's budget for the current fiscal year includes $150,000 for an outside study on police recruitment and retention. Mayoral spokeswoman Christina Chadwick said the city had hired human resources consulting firm Koff & Associates to conduct the study, and that it was expected to be complete in mid-October.

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