San Diego Police officers
San Diego Police Department officers. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation

A two-year contract ratified by members of San Diego’s police union would move officers’ pay to above-average levels statewide in all classifications, city leaders announced Monday.

Now that the roughly 1,800 sworn officers of the San Diego Police Officers Association have given their assent to the agreement, the deal will go before the City Council next month for final approval.

The contract would raise pay by up to 30.6 percent for some personnel in an effort to bolster hiring and retention efforts in the San Diego Police Department.

“San Diego continues to be one of the safest cities in America, but we can’t take that for granted,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at a news conference at the SDPD’s Air Support Unit.

“With this new contract, we’re moving from the bottom of the pack to the front in pay compared to other law enforcement agencies, bolstering our efforts to hire new recruits and retain experienced officers,” he said. “Now the men and women who put on the badge every day to keep our neighborhoods safe will be able to start and end their careers as San Diego police officers.”

The agreement between the police union and the city was announced last week. Officers have been leaving the SDPD at a rate of 12 or 13 a month for several years, with some simply retiring but many seeking better take home pay in neighboring cities or with the Sheriff’s Department.

A highly touted five-year deal with the SDPOA two years ago failed to change matters.

If the deal is approved by the City Council, officers would receive an 8.3 percent pay increase in each of the next two years, of which 3.3 percent in each year were part of the previous contract. Another 5 percent raise would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Officers with 20 or more years of sworn service in law enforcement would receive an additional 5 percent raise on July 1, 2019. A 4 percent hike would be provided to all officers on the same date in exchange for negotiated changes to certain flexible health benefits.

“This contract proposal for SDPD officers will enable the department to retain experienced officers, attract laterals and the recruits we desperately need,” said SDPOA President Brian Marvel. “With this, and a commitment to maintaining higher staffing levels, we can rebuild SDPD into a strong, stable department, capable of providing the quality public safety services that our citizens deserve.”

The total fiscal impact of the agreement will be about $66 million for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years.

San Diego officer salaries currently rank near the bottom when compared to 18 other law enforcement agencies in the state, including Anaheim, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

The mayor’s office said a preliminary comparison conducted by an outside consultant shows that under the new agreement, pay in San Diego would rank:

  • Seventh statewide for captains, up from the current 17th, and would be 4.5 percent above the median.
  • Fifth for lieutenants, from 18th, 7.3 percent above the median.
  • Fifth for officer II, from 16th, 9.9 percent above the median.
  • And sixth for sergeant, from 17th, 5.8 percent above the median.

The improvements are even greater for SDPD personnel with 20 or more years of experience. The consultant is expected to provide final comparisons in the next few weeks.

“This contract will make an enormous difference for our current and future officers, allowing our San Diego Police Department to hire the very best,” said SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman. “And equally important, to retain our veteran officers who possess a wealth of experience and knowledge while proudly serving our community. No department has been able to accomplish so much for so long with so few resources.”

In August, the SDPD employed 239 fewer officers than the budgeted level, with many of those on the force being in academies or in field training.

Beyond the sheer numbers of losses in the SDPD ranks, city officials have been worried about the loss of experienced personnel to lead the younger cops.

About one-third of older officers are eligible to retire over the next five years, according to Zimmerman.

— City News Service