Law enforcement K9 unit. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Law enforcement K9 unit. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Councilman David Alvarez Tuesday proposed further pay increases and better training for San Diego’s police officers, among 30 recommendations for resolving a stubborn retention problem.

According to Alvarez, who represents Barrio Logan and San Diego’s South Bay neighborhoods, the city has spent or committed $140 million over four years, only to see more officers leave the police department.

In February, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said the city employed 1,838 officers, nearly 200 below the budgeted level. Of those, more than 100 are in academies or field training.

She said the department has lost more than 100 officers since July 1, when a five-year deal with the San Diego Police Officers Association took effect that was supposed to stabilize the department’s ranks.

“This is a major problem that greatly concerns me and must be addressed,” Alvarez said in a memo to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, fellow council members and Zimmerman. “Unless the city solves the police officer retention problem, crime rates are likely to rise and it will be difficult to implement true community policing strategies.”

Other suggestions from Alvarez include conducting surveys on job satisfaction and commitment to the SDPD, identifying and intervening with employees at risk of leaving, offering realistic job previews and ride-alongs, increasing officer input in decision-making, offering reimbursement for tuition and relocation, and creating alternative work schedules.

Officer retention should be a priority in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the councilman said. He also suggested that a new comprehensive plan to address officer recruitment and retention be brought before the City Council.

Zimmerman released a statement Tuesday that said, “I appreciate everything Mayor Faulconer and the City Council has done to assist our department in our recruitment and retention efforts. I look forward to continuing progress in the upcoming budget as we work to recruit the very best to our department and retain our highly trained officers.”

–City News Service