Todd Gloria police fire public safety
Mayor Gloria looks on at a Belmont Park gathering to discuss public safety spending in his 2023 budget proposal.

Mayor Todd Gloria Thursday highlighted public safety investments in his proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, including an increase of $13.8 million for the San Diego Police Department.

His “Ready to Rebuild” budget proposes to fund the police department with $584 million to support personnel, equipment and facilities, including an additional $5.5 million for overtime.

“The No. 1 expectation San Diegans have of their city leadership is that we’re working to keep them safe, and that means having people in place to respond quickly and effectively when they call for help,” Gloria said at an event Thursday in Belmont Park. “I’ve been clear: lawlessness will not rule the day in our city – and this budget reflects that.”

The mayor said the city is “investing in the brave men and women who serve our city” to ensure that “they have the proper equipment and facilities for operations and training to do their jobs effectively.”

The $4.89 billion proposed budget anticipates pay increases likely to result from contract negotiations under way now with the bargaining units representing not only police, but also firefighters and lifeguards.

It also provides for recruitment and retention for SDPD. According to city documents, staffing at the department is higher than in eight of the past nine years but, the department still is trying to fill 200 vacancies in order to achieve full staffing.

A purported rise in violent crime has spurred calls by some residents for reassurance that city leaders are committing sufficient resources to patrols and emergency response, Gloria’s office argued.

The San Diego Police Officers Association said earlier this week a rise in violent crime has particularly hit parks – citing 12 murders in local parks over the last year.

“This tragic trend should come as no surprise,” a statement from the SDPOA read. “The San Diego Police Department response times have more than doubled for priority one and two calls over the last five years.”

The association also said that more than 190 officers have departed the SDPD since last July.

Many of those officers who left SDPD cited a COVID-19 vaccine mandate as the reason – though the city ultimately allowed hundreds of exemptions.

The association, though, placed blame on Council President Pro Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe, who chairs the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, due to her efforts to divert funding from the police.

Montgomery Steppe issued a quick response regarding what she describes as an inequitable distribution of resources as the problem, not lack of officers.

She said it was “imperative to recognize it is no coincidence that the communities with high investment in quality resources share the lowest crime rates within our city.” She added that “there is a pattern of disregard for communities south of (Interstate) 8, which has undoubtedly contributed to the cycle of violence in the city.”

“The SDPOA’s ignorance to the compound deprivation of these communities, which they have taken an oath to serve and protect, exacerbates our current dilemma of growing violence in our city,” she said.

In 2021, Gloria’s budget saw a $23 million increase for police. City leaders have overseen an upward trend in the SDPD’s budget for the last 10 years, an increase of more than $213 million since 2011.

For the Fire-Rescue Department, the proposed budget adds two marine safety lieutenants to ensure 24-hour response and emergency management operations in coastal areas. The increase also covers facilities needs, including funding environmental work required in order to build the Fairmont Avenue and Skyline Hills fire stations.

The city also plans to fund replacement of the lifeguard division’s 40-year-old boating safety unit locker room and a lifeguard tower.

Councilman Raul Campillo, who represents District 7 and sits on the public safety committee, said the mayor understands the need to place emphasis on public safety and he will look to “bolster it even further” after hearing the public’s response to the budget proposal.

“Protecting the residents of San Diego is our number one priority as elected officials,” said Campillo said. “It’s imperative that we continue to invest in our police, firefighters, EMS workers and lifeguards to keep public safety in the forefront.”

The Budget Review Committee continues consideration of the mayor’s proposed budget Friday and into next week.

– City News Service