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Council President Scott Peters said he has not seen the police officer retention plan that Mayor Jerry Sanders will unveil next Tuesday, but implied at a news conference yesterday that cops will continue to leave the city’s force if their pay situation is not improved.

“We are cash-strapped, but public safety is our No. 1 priority,” he said.

Peters said he and other council members have a “substantive difference with the mayor” over Sanders’ wait-and-see attitude about retaining cops.

Several council members argue that every five-year veteran that leaves the agency equates to a $560,000 loss for the city. Police Chief Bill Landsdowne estimated that the city spends that amount to train officers.

“If you spend the money to train them, you might not be that fiscally responsible if you let someone else steal them for a couple thousand bucks a year,” Peters said, referring to municipalities ranging from Chula Vista to Riverside County that are cherry-picking San Diego cops by offering better pay and benefits.

In the past, Sanders has chalked up police retention problems as a national phenomenon, sliming that baby boomers are retiring in record numbers and that today’s twenty-somethings are less inclined to become police officers. In an interview today, the mayor acknowledged that there is a “big demand” for cops locally.

Peters advocated boosting cop pay even though firefighters, deputy city attorneys and white- and blue-collar workers are still undergoing pay freezes.

“We’re not seeing the same types of personnel losses in other parts of the city,” the council president said. He continued: “It’s important to keep people on board, and that may warrant some upfront investment now.”

Sanders said that he would wait until his office completed a comprehensive study of police wages elsewhere.

“I’m not sure we’re going to do that,” Sanders said of pay increases. “We’ll start talking to the police union as soon as the salary survey is completed.”

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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