Fact Check: Leaving San Diego PD

Fact Check: Leaving San Diego PD

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Image: TrueStatement: “The Police Department lost an average of 10 officers a month last year. Many officers left due to retirement or better pay and benefits offered by other agencies,” mayoral candidate and Councilman Kevin Faulconer wrote in his plan to rebuild the San Diego Police Department.

Determination: True

Analysis: Mayoral contender Kevin Faulconer just released his plan to bolster police staffing and retain officers already working for the Police Department.

The city councilman’s three-point plan suggests the city should revamp its recruitment practices, increase police compensation and invest in necessary supplies.

Faulconer used a couple key statistics to emphasize the need for reform. He claimed that the Police Department lost an average of 10 officers monthly last year due to retirement or more attractive pay and benefits elsewhere. He also said the department lost 51 potential officers to other agencies often because the city’s hiring process dragged so long they were scooped up by another employer.

As the mayor’s race gets under way, Faulconer and others will cite these stats repeatedly. These data points are likely to shape the conversation about necessary reforms under the next mayor’s watch.

Let’s start with Faulconer’s claim about the number of officers who left the department in fiscal year 2013, which ran July 2012 to June 2013.

Police Department statistics show 119 officers left the department last year, which indeed averages to about 10 officers a month.

As those officers left the Police Department, each filled out paperwork that touched on why they were moving on, Assistant Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.

Here’s a look at their reasons for leaving.

 

The majority – about 60 percent – retired or medically retired, which means a medical condition compromised their ability to stay on the job, last year.

Zimmerman said at least some of the officers moved on to other agencies but couldn’t provide specific figures.

At the same time, about 30 percent of officers simply checked a box that indicates they left for miscellaneous reasons. Zimmerman suspects that category includes many officers who went to other agencies.

Only 15 officers checked a box on the Police Department form that indicated they were joining another law enforcement agency.

Zimmerman said many of those officers – and others who retired or didn’t officially state their reasons for leaving in police paperwork – privately told former colleagues they sought larger paychecks and improved benefits.

“I’ve had several officers in my office that have told me they’re going to leave, and it’s for better pay and benefits,” Zimmerman said.

Indeed, recent Chula Vista Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department job postings indicate they’ll offer up to $5,000 signing bonuses for veteran officers.

And a May U-T San Diego story mentioned two San Diego officers who joined the Chula Vista force and immediately increased their take-home pay by at least $1,100 a month.

The numbers Zimmerman provided support Faulconer’s statement that an average of 10 officers left each month in 2013, and that many officers left as a result of retirements or other jobs.  Anecdotal evidence also reveals that the number of officers who left to take higher-paying police job may be higher than Police Department statistics reveal.

Those factors make Faulconer’s claim true.

♦♦♦

Image: TrueStatement: “In fiscal year 2013, the Police Department lost 51 of its prospective officers to other agencies, and many of them reported that the length of the hiring process contributed to their decision,” Faulconer wrote in his plan to rebuild the San Diego Police Department.

Determination: True

Analysis: Police have said they aren’t just having trouble retaining officers but they’re also struggling to hire enough to replace those who are leaving.

The problem could grow as about half of San Diego officers will be eligible to retire within four years. If the Police Department continues hiring at its current rate and an average of 10 officers leave the agency each month, the department projects it won’t reach its budgeted staffing of 1,977 officers until October 2026.

As of Monday, the city was short about 136 officers.

Faulconer and police leaders have suggested for months that the city’s hiring process is complicating matters.

Earlier this year, police reported problems with the city personnel department’s hiring process. Those issues inspired Faulconer to emphasize the need to streamline the city’s hiring process in his police plan.

But did the department really lose 51 potential officers to other agencies last fiscal year?

Zimmerman said police collected information from prospective officers who reported plans to go elsewhere after beginning the hiring process at the San Diego Police Department.

Last year, 51 would-be cops told police they had been hired by another police department, she said.

“Many of them did tell us that they opted out of our process because it was taking too long,” Zimmerman said.

Here’s a look at the other agencies where those potential officers ended up.

 

Zimmerman said some of those would-be officers told San Diego Police Department recruiters that they had applied online and waited as long as 14 weeks for a response or update on the next step in the hiring process.

Jeff Jordon, vice president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, has said some applicants had also approached the union to say they had waited weeks to hear from the city after submitting their application.

He raised concerns about the length of time it was taking the city’s personnel department to contact applicants at a July 24 meeting where the City Council’s rules subcommittee discussed the city’s hiring and recruitment process.

“In the meantime, while we’re waiting weeks to respond to these applicants, we are at a disadvantage because we know we are in a competitive job market in regards to police recruits,” Jordon said. “They are taking tests elsewhere. They’re not just applying here.”

At that meeting, Faulconer directed Zimmerman and Personnel Director Hadi Dehghani to work together to address the delays.

The assistant police chief said the situation has since improved and applicants are now hearing back from the city within two to three weeks of submitting an application. She said a $2 million recruitment and retention program Faulconer and other City Council members pushed has also allowed the city to take more proactive steps to draw applicants, including an Oct. 5 recruiting expo.

Zimmerman is hopeful both changes, as well as other investments included in the City Council-approved program, will help the city attract and retain more officers this year.

But Faulconer’s statement centered on the situation last year.

He claimed the city lost 51 prospective officers last year, and that’s true. He also said delays in the city’s hiring process contributed to potential officers’ decisions not to join the San Diego Police Department.

This latter part of Faulconer’s statement was less straightforward. It’s difficult to know for sure exactly why officers decided against a job with the San Diego Police Department. There are a variety of reasons one might go elsewhere, including more competitive pay.

Still, Faulconer only claimed the length of the hiring process contributed to prospective officers’ decision not to continue to pursue a job in San Diego, so I decided his claim is true.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

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22 comments
Jim Jones
Jim Jones

The real problem with SDPD is expressed by officers like Dana and Arevalos, and telltales like that Chula Vista has caught multiple SDPD officers DUI, but SDPD never does. Does anyone really think these officers only drive drunk inside Chula Vista? SDPD has a long history of corruption, it protects bad cops. Until it gets hosed and scrubbed of the filth the citizens are better served by a shrinking department than they are by a growing one.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

The real problem with SDPD is expressed by officers like Dana and Arevalos, and telltales like that Chula Vista has caught multiple SDPD officers DUI, but SDPD never does. Does anyone really think these officers only drive drunk inside Chula Vista? SDPD has a long history of corruption, it protects bad cops. Until it gets hosed and scrubbed of the filth the citizens are better served by a shrinking department than they are by a growing one.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

The real problem at the SDPD is simple, the solution a little more difficult. The problem is that due to the City's budget woes, Police and Fire have consistently had significant erosion to their pay and benefits over the course of many years. Other cities (and the County) offer better deals for personnel who regularly risk their lives to protect ours. If our City needs/wants more officers and firemen, SOMEONE is going to have to "pay the piper". There is absolutely no incentive for these men and women to work for less than their peers.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

The real problem at the SDPD is simple, the solution a little more difficult. The problem is that due to the City's budget woes, Police and Fire have consistently had significant erosion to their pay and benefits over the course of many years. Other cities (and the County) offer better deals for personnel who regularly risk their lives to protect ours. If our City needs/wants more officers and firemen, SOMEONE is going to have to "pay the piper". There is absolutely no incentive for these men and women to work for less than their peers.

shawn fox
shawn fox

It looks like the vast majority retired which does not imply any kind of problem with pay or benefits. Many employers lose a few candidates to other employers. People have a lot of choices. Sometimes benefits are similar but people have to choose one or the other and do so for a variety of reasons. Those numbers are not troubling at all. The only troubling part is the inefficient hiring process. What a shocker that is! Gov't does something inefficiently or there is too much red tape and confusion during the process? Does that really surprise anyone?

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

It looks like the vast majority retired which does not imply any kind of problem with pay or benefits. Many employers lose a few candidates to other employers. People have a lot of choices. Sometimes benefits are similar but people have to choose one or the other and do so for a variety of reasons. Those numbers are not troubling at all. The only troubling part is the inefficient hiring process. What a shocker that is! Gov't does something inefficiently or there is too much red tape and confusion during the process? Does that really surprise anyone?

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

Lisa. The police Department Just had the physical test for recruits that passed the written test. My understanding is they had a really good turnout of prospective recruits. True? Might be a good follow up question if you pursue this story line further.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Lisa. The police Department Just had the physical test for recruits that passed the written test. My understanding is they had a really good turnout of prospective recruits. True? Might be a good follow up question if you pursue this story line further.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

This is good information to fact check, but these are SDPD statistics, not Faulconer statistics. He’s just parroting what they state. I would note also that you seem to be taking those statistics at face value without checking them with anyone other than the SDPD. I have no reason to think they are untrue, but they have not been fact checked from what I can tell (other than from a single source). I think it might be nice to do another fact check along these lines: “Police are leaving the SDPD in part because of declining pay and benefits relative to other local law enforcement agencies and anti-employee rhetoric that ratcheted up while Kevin Faulconer was on the City Council and simultaneously making statements about how much he values the police.” Presumed determination: True.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

This is good information to fact check, but these are SDPD statistics, not Faulconer statistics. He’s just parroting what they state. I would note also that you seem to be taking those statistics at face value without checking them with anyone other than the SDPD. I have no reason to think they are untrue, but they have not been fact checked from what I can tell (other than from a single source). I think it might be nice to do another fact check along these lines: “Police are leaving the SDPD in part because of declining pay and benefits relative to other local law enforcement agencies and anti-employee rhetoric that ratcheted up while Kevin Faulconer was on the City Council and simultaneously making statements about how much he values the police.” Presumed determination: True.

Elmer Walker
Elmer Walker

Increasing wages or benefits doesn't really keep employees long. Other agencies will just raise theirs and your problems are repeated. You have to create an atmosphere where employees are happy and know they are appreciated. San Diego has lacked this for a long time.

Elmer Walker
Elmer Walker subscriber

Increasing wages or benefits doesn't really keep employees long. Other agencies will just raise theirs and your problems are repeated. You have to create an atmosphere where employees are happy and know they are appreciated. San Diego has lacked this for a long time.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

Sorry you feel that way but my position is you are dead wrong....Reasonable guys will sometimes disagree.... Let's both go after the next bone-headed article that's put out. Just remember, cops n' robbers..........opposite sides of the same coin.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

Jim, I agree with ya on most of your posts but this one I gotta disagree. I am biased. I'll admit it up front. SDPD does NOT have a history of corruption. In fact, compared to other departments around the U.S., historically, SDPD is one of the cleanest in the nation. I was raised around MANY officers of the SDPD. In fact, I know, personally, many of the "Old Guard" chiefs, as my father was one of them. They all pride themselves on their honesty and take their jobs very seriously. Sure, there are typical abuses of authority out on the streets, and a bad apple or two, from time to time. Most of it from too much ego and testosterone, or from lippy guys with no respect for authority. We have one of the better departments in this country, notwithstanding their losses to other local departments.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

Sorry you feel that way but my position is you are dead wrong....Reasonable guys will sometimes disagree.... Let's both go after the next bone-headed article that's put out. Just remember, cops n' robbers..........opposite sides of the same coin.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

Jim, I agree with ya on most of your posts but this one I gotta disagree. I am biased. I'll admit it up front. SDPD does NOT have a history of corruption. In fact, compared to other departments around the U.S., historically, SDPD is one of the cleanest in the nation. I was raised around MANY officers of the SDPD. In fact, I know, personally, many of the "Old Guard" chiefs, as my father was one of them. They all pride themselves on their honesty and take their jobs very seriously. Sure, there are typical abuses of authority out on the streets, and a bad apple or two, from time to time. Most of it from too much ego and testosterone, or from lippy guys with no respect for authority. We have one of the better departments in this country, notwithstanding their losses to other local departments.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

The Sheriff department has a lower pay scale than the SDPD iirc, did that get fact checked? Out of State the pay is generally worse, there is not much evidence that lower pay is the reason for the attrition, or that the attrition is unusually high. Do you think maybe the police union is bending the facts to get more taxpayer money, and the politicians go along because it's the easiest route to an election victory, and the reporters go along because they are biased toward unions and lack critical thinking skills and the ability to use them? Remember when the football refs were on strike? All of a sudden bad calls got a lot of focus and became a major issue. Union refs come back and bad calls get the normal half second of focus then ignored? The unions want more money, so now normal attrition becomes a crisis, and money is the answer.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

The Sheriff department has a lower pay scale than the SDPD iirc, did that get fact checked? Out of State the pay is generally worse, there is not much evidence that lower pay is the reason for the attrition, or that the attrition is unusually high. Do you think maybe the police union is bending the facts to get more taxpayer money, and the politicians go along because it's the easiest route to an election victory, and the reporters go along because they are biased toward unions and lack critical thinking skills and the ability to use them? Remember when the football refs were on strike? All of a sudden bad calls got a lot of focus and became a major issue. Union refs come back and bad calls get the normal half second of focus then ignored? The unions want more money, so now normal attrition becomes a crisis, and money is the answer.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

OK, lets agree that SDPD assigned as bodyguards who witnessed Filners behavior and kept their mouth shut even as they looked the other way for the next one, and the next one, represent SDPD at its finest.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

I'll believe it when they find Donna Gentile's killer. SDPD does have a history of corruption, but they also have no oversight and a DA department that protected bad cops, a press that protected bad cops and no Serpico or Rodney King moments to trigger a Fed microscope, so they got (or get, as I believe it is still rampant) away with it. Being less corrupt that LA or TJ is not the same as being honest. If you look hard enough (which isn't all that hard) you can find plenty on our illustrious PD and running prostitution going all the way up the top, possibly some vice bribery if anyone has come forward on it (I saw vice corruption downtown first hand in the 80's, and was warned by the vice cop to keep my mouth shut), etc. What I know about as simply a civilian can only be the tip of the iceberg. SDPD has two faces, and they are good at keeping one in the shadows. The history is there, it's real, and as far as I know it continues to this day. Why wouldn't it still be going on? Heck, how many years was the fist girl sexually assaulted by Arevalos stonewalled and intimidated to protect a bad cop? If SDPD will allow sexual assault to continue for a decade, how long will they allow corruption that has less visible victims to continue, to protect this fiction of honesty? You want me to believe SDPD is honest? Put in an independent, motivated IA division that will actively seek and get rid of the bad cops. If they find none I'll be the first to eat my words.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

OK, lets agree that SDPD assigned as bodyguards who witnessed Filners behavior and kept their mouth shut even as they looked the other way for the next one, and the next one, represent SDPD at its finest.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

I'll believe it when they find Donna Gentile's killer. SDPD does have a history of corruption, but they also have no oversight and a DA department that protected bad cops, a press that protected bad cops and no Serpico or Rodney King moments to trigger a Fed microscope, so they got (or get, as I believe it is still rampant) away with it. Being less corrupt that LA or TJ is not the same as being honest. If you look hard enough (which isn't all that hard) you can find plenty on our illustrious PD and running prostitution going all the way up the top, possibly some vice bribery if anyone has come forward on it (I saw vice corruption downtown first hand in the 80's, and was warned by the vice cop to keep my mouth shut), etc. What I know about as simply a civilian can only be the tip of the iceberg. SDPD has two faces, and they are good at keeping one in the shadows. The history is there, it's real, and as far as I know it continues to this day. Why wouldn't it still be going on? Heck, how many years was the fist girl sexually assaulted by Arevalos stonewalled and intimidated to protect a bad cop? If SDPD will allow sexual assault to continue for a decade, how long will they allow corruption that has less visible victims to continue, to protect this fiction of honesty? You want me to believe SDPD is honest? Put in an independent, motivated IA division that will actively seek and get rid of the bad cops. If they find none I'll be the first to eat my words.