More than 100 police officers have left the San Diego Police Department since July 1, at least 19 for other law enforcement agencies that offer higher pay, according to a report presented Wednesday to a City Council committee.
The rate of losing about a dozen officers a month has been the norm for the past several years, even though city officials have made headway in improving compensation packages.
The report, given by the SDPD to the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, says the department’s officer count stands at 1,861 as of today. The department is budgeted for 2,013 officers, leaving a deficit of 152 employees.
“The numbers are not good,” SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.
She said that of those in the fold, 126 are in the police academy or going through field training.
In addition to the officers who have left the department over the past nine months, 27 applicants who were given conditional job offers or were going through background checks opted to join other agencies, according to the report.
The report also sheds light on a shortfall in civilian staffing, which is budgeted for more than 525 positions, with only 478 filled.
According to police union leaders, the biggest hurdle in retaining experienced cops hasn’t been salaries specifically, but take-home pay. The City Council attempted to close the gap with nearby law enforcement agencies by offering more equipment and uniform allowances.
The council has also directed more money toward recruiting and expanding academy classes.
More recently, the city and San Diego Police Officers Association agreed to a tentative five-year deal that includes a 3.3 percent raise in each of the contract’s last two years.
The deal was approved by 88 percent of the SDPOA’s rank-and-file. The City Council will consider final ratification at its Monday meeting, after receiving an actuarial report on the impact of the raises on the San Diego City Employees Retirement System.
“It is my belief that with this total compensation package that will take effect on July 1, pending approval by the City Council, it will send a clear message to our current officers and a message to our future officers that the city is committed to hiring the very best to be San Diego police officers, and we are equally committed to keeping our highly trained officers right here at the San Diego Police Department,” Zimmerman said.
City and police leaders have an ultimate goal of returning to the Fiscal Year 2009 staffing level of 2,128 officers. At the current rate of recruiting and retention, it would take 20 years to get there, Zimmerman said.