A combination between retirement and departmental attrition could have the San Diego Police Department with too few officers. Many current employees are being contacted by other local departments. A great number of these men and women have been lured away by higher salaries and better benefits. Some are being offered signing bonuses. Nearly one third of the city’s new officers hired in the past eight years have left for better paying jobs.
Approximately half of the SDPD’s 1,800 officers will be eligible for retirement within the next four years. This is cause for alarm, say local elected officials, who say there are 300 fewer sworn staff today than they was a decade ago. Some say this is more a sign of the time. Crime rates are at a historic low. Departments all over the country have downsized their staff due to the economy. At the same time, this is not to say the SDPD can function on a skeleton-crew staff.
Some members of the city council feel that San Diego is nearing a crisis. The challenge seems to relate to increased health care and pension costs. In addition, officers took a 6 percent pay cut in 2009. That cut has yet to be restored. Many of these officers can take a job one city over and see their take home pay increase by more than $1,000 per month. They can make more money and not need to uproot their families.
The Police Officers Association said they are currently negotiating with the city on a new five-year deal. It is expected that part of that deal will include a bump in compensation.
Crime rates may be low, according to city employees, but that isn’t to say it isn’t rising. Response times are reportedly taking longer today than they had in years past. In addition, instances of crime increased by 6 percent in the past year. The mayor has suggested increasing the number of officers in police academy classes. Some say this is just a dirty band aid. The underlying problem is compensation, they said, and San Diego needs to be more competitive.