Parked San Diego police cruisers. Photo by Chris Stone

Despite efforts to improve compensation to San Diego Police officers, the gap between the number allowed for in the budget and actually on the force has refused to close, according to a report to be delivered to a City Council committee.

The report, which will be presented Wednesday to the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, says that as of April 10, the budgeted number of sworn police officers was 2,039, while the actual number was 1,838 — a deficit of 201.

In a similar report at about this time last year, the difference was also about 200 officers. In 2015, the shortage was about 160.

The ranks of those actually employed by the San Diego Police Department includes 44 recruits in the academy and 52 recent graduates who are in field training, according to the report.

The stubborn problem is the result of years of poaching of SDPD officers by other law enforcement agencies and a large number of experienced officers reaching retirement age. More recently, societal issues — including high- profile police shootings — have dissuaded many younger people from pursuing a career in police work, SDPD officials have said.

Since the start of the current fiscal year last July 1, 125 officers have left the department, with at least 15 going to another law enforcement agency, according to the report.

Another 20 applicants who were given conditional job offers or were in the process of completing the background investigation to become San Diego police officers opted out in order to join another law enforcement agency.

The current attrition rate is 13 officers a month.

City officials several years ago began offering inducements to stay, such as raising uniform allowances that provided greater take-home pay.

In 2015, a five-year contract between the city and San Diego Police Officers Association took effect that will raise salaries by 3.3 percent in each of the final two years. The first three years provided increased city health benefit contributions and holiday pay.

The news was much better among dispatchers, which not long ago faced a staffing shortage that required 911 operators to work substantial amounts of overtime and delayed call responses. The report says only three of the Communications Division’s 133 jobs are vacant.

Of 557 civilian positions in the SDPD, 47 are vacant, the report says.

–City News Service

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