Despite pay raises and heightened recruiting efforts, little progress has been made in addressing the staffing problem among sworn officers in the San Diego Police Department, according to a report issued Wednesday.
However, significant strides have been made in the SDPD’s Communications Department, which handles 911 and non-emergency calls from the public.
Around 13 officers are leaving the department each month, an average similar to that of the past four years, Chief Shelley Zimmerman told members of the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.
Zimmerman said the SDPD is budgeted for 2,039 officers and has 1,862 employed — a shortfall of 177. Of those working, 123 are in the academy or in field training.
Department staff have been attending job and community fairs, going to other cities, conducting outreach to the military and schools, and advertising the need for new officers, the chief said.
Chris Olsen, of the city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office, pointed out that in four years, total sworn staffing has increased by only 30 officers. The recruiting efforts have been offset by “persistent attrition,” he said.
Zimmerman said that of those who have left since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, seven departed for other law enforcement agencies.
City officials have been grappling with the problem for several years now, and have raised pay and benefits. Those efforts “haven’t moved the needle,” Councilman Todd Gloria said.
“It’s taken many years to get into this position and it’s going to take many years to get back to full staffing,” Zimmerman responded.
The situation “would be much, much worse” if the compensation hikes hadn’t been adopted, Zimmerman said. She said large departments across the country are facing similar issues.
The Communications Department, which takes 911 and non-emergency calls from the public, has hired 35 employees since the beginning of the year, and 32 are still on the job, police said. With more dispatchers on hand, emergency calls are being picked up faster, the report said.
— City News Service
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