Parked San Diego police cruisers. Photo by Chris Stone

The City Council Friday approved spending $4 million to boost an equipment and uniform allowance for San Diego Police officers in an effort to stem the flow of sworn personnel toward other law enforcement agencies.

At a special meeting, the council voted 6-0 to provide officers an additional $1,473 or $2,100 annually, depending on their classification. The deal was approved by at least 90 percent of the San Diego Police Officers Association’s rank-and-file, though final results weren’t available, city negotiator Timothy Davis said.

San Diego officials have tried for years to address their recruiting and retention problems, including previous allowance hikes and a five-year contract that will soon raise base pay. However, officers are leaving at more or less the same rate as they did before, with other departments in the area paying higher wages.

Chief Shelley Zimmerman told City News Service that as of Monday, 1,801 officers are on the force — including recruits in the academy and new officers in field training — or 239 below the budgeted level.

Four officers have left for other agencies since the fiscal year began July 1, she said.

“We’re about ready to dip below 1,800 — I can’t remember the last time we were below 1,800,” Zimmerman said.

Another problem — about one-third of the total will be eligible for retirement over the next five years, she said.

The chief said an academy class with 45 officers is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks.

City officials said negotiations to amend the SDPOA contract in order to raise pay further are set to begin early this fall.

“We have to do something right here, right now in these contract negotiations,” Zimmerman said.

“As the chief of police, I am very concerned,” she said. “Our police officers, right here in the city of San Diego at the San Diego Police Department need to be the highest law enforcement paid professionals in our county, and we will solve our recruitment and retention (problems).”

With the meeting taking place during the council’s summer recess, members Barbara Bry, Chris Ward and Mark Kersey did not attend.

—City News Service