Is San Diego Doing Enough To Maintain Its Police Force?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's first budget released today contains funds for new police recruits and upgrades in place equipment, but is it enough? San Diego police officers Association says more than half the force will be eligible for retirement in the next four years on top of the nearly 30% of San Diego city police officers who have been hired since 2005 have left the force. Some to work for local agencies that pay more. So what does San Diego need to do to maintain a fully staffed police force. I'd like to welcome my guests. Sgt. Jeff Jordon is vice president of the San Diego police officers Association. Jeff welcome to the program. JEFF JORDON: Thank you very much, Maureen. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And San Diego city Council members Marti Emerald she's San Diego City Council Member representing District 9 and chair of the public safety and neighborhood services committee and Marti welcome to the program MARTI EMERALD: Thank you so much it's good to be here, MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Jeff, how many police officers does the city of San Diego employ now and how does it compare to similar sized cities? JEFF JORDON: Actually present for 1970 officers but we do not come close to that in budget and staffing we are down to around 1840 officers, but after about 100 more out of light duty due to injuries or in some places they are serving as reserves in the military overseas, recovering from injury so at any point in time we have under 1700 officers unfolded in the city San Diego possessed a 1.3, 1.4 ratio per 1000 citizens which places us at the bottom of the staffing. A lot of cities try to staff about two officers per 1000 San Diego is able to do that in all circumstances we're in the lower end of the spectrum along with Chula Vista and some others MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Among similar sized cities we are at the lower end of the spectrum. JEFF JORDON: Probably the big cities in America probably city of San Jose has less the city San Diego MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does that mean the city of San Diego has not added an adequate number of officers over the years? JEFF JORDON: We were facing structural deficits combat except problems that the city of San Diego especially 2005, 06 and 07 years we lost a great number of officers to other agencies who just transferred to other agencies locally that can make a lot more money upwards of 30% more by going to another agency additionally many of the benefit changes and attacks to litigation on employees and other things have force people to retire earlier so we kind of had it from both ways he said officers lead to other agencies and although people retire much earlier than we thought they were going to retire and this demographic leads us to officers can retire at 15 or 16 year services that is earlier and we have 900+ that are going to hit that half the department will be eligible to did retire the next 4 to 6 years. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Marti Emerald the public safety department approved a five-year plan for the public safety department cluster with the plan add new officers? MARTI EMERALD: Yes exactly jumpstarted it during this current fiscal year. The five-year action plan was designed to begin new fiscal year starting July 1 coming up. But we recognized we were seriously shorthanded as Jeff just laid out. So we kicked some more money into academies and we've had how many academies now in the last year, three or so JEFF JORDON: I think there have been three or four we usually try to schedule four MARTI EMERALD: We have the budget so we could increase the academies for 25 maximum 30, 32 to get more officers and but here is the rub, because the city of San Diego pays less than most comparable cities in the state and the region because the benefit package is in flux because of prop B and the legal dispute over that police officers are choosing other agencies and other agencies are hiring. Heck, the County Sheriff's Department will pay much more than the city does, plus a signing bonus, thousand dollars a year for the first five years. It's really hard for young people who want to go into law enforcement who have young growing families to turn down that kind of an opportunity to make extra money to support their families. This is, and so this is why I think the average person should care. We are having a hard time recruiting, we are having a hard time retaining and you ask what impact does that have? Over the last several years without cuts in fact as I was a reporter at Channel 10 we did investigations on this in the warning was that we can only cut so long before crime starts to go up again and that's exactly what's happening in neighborhoods throughout San Diego crime after years is on the rise again and it's primarily violent crime that is increasing. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a couple technical questions a five-year plan was approved by the committee what is the status of that it has not been approved by the full Council? MARTI EMERALD: It has not gone to the full Council but we hope it will in the next month or so we hope to see where we are with the rest of the budget and of course the mayor has released his proposed budget. We will be going through as a Council and the mayor together going through the process of honing the budget, and I think that at this point I think the majority of the city Council recognizes the need to increase spending for public safety and hopefully that is what we will see come out of the budget MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In the mayor's budget that he released today do think there's adequate increase in the number of police officers and the money for the police department? MARTI EMERALD: No there isn't. Remember the former mayor left office pronouncing this year we would have a $5 million surplus. He wasn't sure we actually have closer to a $40 million deficit in the budget. So Mayor Filner is working at closing the deficit. He's able to come up with an extra $4 million to fund those academies, but the police chief has told us that I think the POA will confirm that over the next five years we are going to need about $66 million to get our police department up to where it needs to be just to be on par with other comparable cities and that comes to an average of well over $11-$15 million per year. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Jeff? JEFF JORDON: $69 is hard but it doesn't begin to address the compensation package we are dealing with that's just to hire the number of officers to equip them to provide them the facilities to work in so many begin to even look at the compensation package additional monies are going to need to be found in that because the question really comes up is is a proven. To address six is explained dollars and hiring all the officers when we do not pay them enough to retain them if we are not meeting their needs they will go somewhere else and we have been experiencing that. MARTI EMERALD: And by the way that is not new. Going back as far as 10 years city sponsored surveys have shown that in fact the higher in rank the officer goes, the lower they are on par with other cities. Our officers from sergeants up are in the bottom one third quadrant or you know, section of pay scales for comparably priced cities and the law enforcement that is paid there. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you want to go back to something that Marti Emerald said, you know people have been watching the number of San Diego city police officers go down for years now because of budget cuts that yet until very recently, crime was also going down, so what, is there any connection really between the number of officers on the street in the amount of crime in San Diego? JEFF JORDON: I absolutely believe there is. You know this year there's a 30% increase in homicides and it's not just that. It's not just crime related statistics we have two metrics, response times and crime but is much more than that that the number of officers here failing to meet the needs and service in the community mental health for instance was just looked at all of mental health calls, but the number of mental health calls have increased or doubled in the last three years and officers being able to respond to them are few and far between so we talk about not just crime rising there definitely is a correlation between officers and the crimes but we are also failing to meet quality-of-life issues the community is suffering we are failing to provide services. I think chief Zimmerman really laid out extremely well at the public services meeting Marti chairs and told us we are just not doing the things we should when we streamlined as much as we can. Automated computerized report taking got it down as low as we can go but now we need to counsel to step up. The Police Department POA have come together and created as many efficiencies as we can we do need staffing and find a way to retain MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We will follow the story the mayor and the budget struggles in the days to come I want to thank my guests San Diego city councilmember Marti Emerald Jeff Jordon, VP of the San Diego police officers Association you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition.
The San Diego Police Officers Association says more than half the force will be eligible for retirement in the next four years. On top of that, higher pay in other law enforcement agencies siphoned away nearly 30 percent of San Diego city police officers who've been hired since 2005.
So what does San Diego need to do to maintain a fully-staffed police force?