Updated at 12:30 p.m. May 4, 2016
The City Council Wednesday began four days of public hearings on San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s $3.3 billion proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, tackling the police staffing controversy that ranks as the spending plan’s biggest issue.
According to the city’s independent budget analyst, the proposed $433.6 million budget for the San Diego Police Department doesn’t include new initiatives to address the drain of experienced police officers from the SDPD, which continues unabated despite compensation increases.
The IBA report, which praises the spending plan overall, calls the inability of the police department to recruit and retain enough officers “a multifaceted, complicated, and serious matter.”
SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said the agency employs 160 fewer sworn officers than called for in the current fiscal year’s budget. She said an academy that includes 20 recruits began Monday.
According to the chief, the department is receiving 25 percent fewer applications than in the recent past.
“All major cities are having the same problem,” Zimmerman said. “I speak to police chiefs throughout the entire country and we are experiencing this — there’s just such a reduction of people that are wanting to become police officers.”
In a related matter, Faulconer and Zimmerman have been criticized for a shortfall of civilian employees who receive 911 calls and of dispatch officers, leading to callers being placed on hold for long periods of time.
A couple whose 3-day-old son was fatally mauled by their family dog about two weeks ago made two unsuccessful 911 calls before giving up and rushing the baby to the hospital. Last fall, two callers who had intruders in their homes in separate incidents each spent several minutes on hold.
She said 11 dispatchers have been hired since Jan. 1 to fill vacancies. The spending proposal would add one more position to the budgeted total, while two additional public service officers would free up communication staff to handle dispatching duties, she said.
Faulconer on Tuesday announced a series of initiatives to resolve the dispatching problem, and those that will affect the budget will be included in his “May Revise,” scheduled to be released May 17.
The City Council budget hearings will continue on a department-by- department basis Thursday, Monday and Tuesday. An evening council session on the budget is scheduled for May 16.
The new budget will take effect July 1.
—City News Service
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