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A Dozen Officers Per Month Left SDPD Last Fiscal Year, Chief Says

Photo caption:

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

San Diego police officers stand in a line revealing a patch on the right shoulder of their uniforms in this undated photo.

A dozen officers per month left the San Diego Police Department during the recently completed fiscal year, one fewer than the rate of the year before, Chief Shelley Zimmerman said Wednesday.

RELATED: Why Are Officers Leaving The San Diego Police Department?

Speaking to the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, Zimmerman said the SDPD is currently 190 sworn officers below the number for which the department is budgeted.

While many of the 147 officers who left in the fiscal year ended June 30 retired or sought other types of employment, 19 left for other law enforcement agencies, she said.

The departures came in the first year of a five-year agreement with the San Diego Police Officers Association that increased take-home pay, and will raise salaries in the final two years.

On the contentious issue of dispatcher staffing, 20 employees have been hired since Jan. 1, and 74 officers have been trained to work in the 911 call center, said Capt. Jerry Hara, who heads the SDPD Communications Division.

A shortage of dispatchers has percolated at the SDPD for a few years, but entered the public spotlight in April when a couple gave up calling 911 after several tries and drove their newborn to the hospital after he was bitten by a dog. The baby later died.

Last fall, two callers who had intruders in their homes in separate incidents each spent several minutes on hold. The problems became a major issue in the mayor's race, which ended June 7 with the reelection of Kevin Faulconer.

The City Council last month recently granted dispatchers a 15 percent raise — on top of a previous 6.6 percent pay hike given to members of their Municipal Employees Association — in an effort to boost their ranks. Hara said he has also implemented a more efficient work schedule, all in an effort to get the phones answered faster.

Hara said 1.4 million calls were received in the communications center last year, with nearly 800,000 being of the non-emergency variety.

Zimmerman said "the goal is to hire as quickly as we can" but it takes time to train new dispatchers.

The SDPD also has 55 fewer civilian employees than are called for in the budget, she said.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the rate of officers leaving the force.

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