The Morning Report
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NUA, or No Unit Available, is SDPD police talk for a situation where patrol units are unable to respond to a radio call.
Here are some real life examples of how it affects San Diego citizens: A woman is home with her child when she reports that someone has broken into her residence. Dispatch looks for a patrol unit to respond, but everyone is locked into other high priority calls. There is No Unit Available. Dispatch has reports of gang members, possibly with weapons, gathering for a fight, but there is No Unit Available. A sexual assault victim waits in an emergency room, but there is No Unit Available. A neighbor reports a violent fight between the young couple living next door. Once again, there is No Unit Available.
Does anyone see a pattern here? SDPD officers are being overwhelmed by priority calls and we do not have the staffing to handle them, much less respond to quality of life issues like loud party calls or noise complaints. NUA leads to frustration, anger and a feeling of hopelessness for both the crime victims and the cops.
One SDPD officer said it best about NUA, “I did not become a police officer to have these types of situations happen to our citizens! I raised my right hand and I swore an oath to protect and serve. I feel disgusted and embarrassed!”
There is a problem going on in the SDPD that nobody wants to talk about, but it affects the safety of everyone that lives, works or visits this wonderful city. The bare-bones, minimum patrol staffing levels that every division has in place to ensure the safety of both citizens and officers are not being met. To demonstrate this point, look at the horrific home invasion robbery and sexual assault that occurred last Saturday night in Mission Beach. Lt. B. Ahearn stated he had 13 patrol officers assigned to work in SDPD’s Northern Division and five of those were assigned to patrol all of Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla. For those not familiar with the area, Northern Division is populated by 250,000 people and covers an area of almost 70 square miles.
At a recent meeting, cops asked Chief Bill Lansdowne why his office is not authorizing overtime to meet the minimum staffing needs for patrol divisions. His honest and candid reply was, “That money is not in the current police budget.”
Many cities try to maintain an officer to citizen ratio of 2 officers per 1000 citizens. By using this standard, SDPD would need a force of 2,600 cops, almost 500 above the 2,108 officers now budgeted and 700 more than it currently employs. As I write this, the number of total officers (from chief to recruit) employed with SDPD is 1,907. Another 160 officers are unavailable due to military commitments, injury, and other leave. This means if a disaster struck today, we have 1747 officers available for a city of 1.3 million citizens and the officers that are assigned to patrol San Diego are leaving faster than we can hire replacements. Go to www.sdpoa.org for more details.
Last week the local media reported that Lt. A. Guaderrama from SDPD claimed that the department would be fully staffed by 2010. I think we need to closely examine the attrition and hiring rates of SDPD to see if this goal is feasible. Let’s use the starting point of 1907 currently employed officers with SDPD (including those injured and on leave).
At a recent meeting before council members, Lt. Guaderrama claimed the SDPD is currently losing 12 cops per month. If this attrition rate continues, SDPD will lose another 108 cops before the end of the fiscal year in June 2007. According to the SDPD Five-Year Plan released by Chief Lansdowne in Dec. 2005, the San Diego Police Department will lose on average 150 officers during fiscal years 2008 through 2010. By the chief’s own numbers, SDPD is planning on losing 555 officers and will have to hire 897 recruits in order to meet the projected staffing needs of 2,249 by the end of fiscal year 2010. This equates to 224 cops per year.
This is a numerical improbability. In the last six fiscal years, SDPD has not hired more than 132 officers during a fiscal year and those numbers were achieved in much better financial and political times than in present day San Diego. Therefore, it seems disingenuous for Lt. Guaderrama to have the city believe that SDPD will be able to hire 897 recruits in 3 and a half years, especially since the wages and benefits offered by the San Diego Police Department are not competitive with other departments in the region and other large police agencies in the state. In fact, new recruits with SDPD are paid as much as $17,000 less than new hires in other departments and are not provided with health care after they retire as with other agencies. Go to www.sdblue.net and use the link on the bottom of the page for the national 2006 salary survey to get additional information on where SDPD stands in terms of compensation.
Some people argue that SDPD staffing is unimportant and claim that San Diego is the fourth safest big city in America. Unfortunately, the statistics that are used to make this claim come from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report Program and one should note the following paragraph in the UCR:
Each year when Crime in the United States is published, many entities -news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our Nation -use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.
Common sense would dictate that statistics that indicate Los Angeles, the home of 463 gangs and 39,032 gang members, is safer than San Diego must be viewed with skepticism.
What is the most important function of SDPD? In the words of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ political ally and self-proclaimed performance expert Carl DeMaio, “The single most important performance-related activity of any police department is routine patrol and the response to calls for service.” Using these criteria, SDPD is failing miserably, as response times have risen 20 percent since 1999. We are no longer a proactive police department. We solve crimes after they happen, instead of getting the bad guys before they commit their vicious acts.
I am a husband, a father and a resident of San Diego. While I am on patrol protecting your family, the last thing I want to worry about is the safety of mine. Unfortunately, worrying is exactly what I do sometimes, because I know exactly how many, or how few, SDPD officers are patrolling my neighborhood.