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Mayor Jerry Sanders promised today to bring police take-home pay to a level competitive with other agencies after formally releasing a study that puts San Diego officer’s take-home pay well below that of their colleagues at other local and regional departments.

The mayor said he wouldn’t discuss specifics because he and the cops union, Police Officers Association, are set to begin labor negotiations next month.

However, the mayor is already grappling with a projected $87 million budget gap for next year. He has planned to close that gap to $25 million by eliminating 446 positions, but has yet to formulate a strategy for bridging that final $25 million hole.

It’s assumed that gap will have to be closed through some level of service cuts.

Any pay or benefit increases granted to police officers that take effect next year will only grow the size of the budget deficit and likely mean further cuts elsewhere.

Sanders said he understood the city’s financial pressures, but that he might come to the conclusion that it’s vital for the city to offer officers better pay or benefits and cut elsewhere.

The mayor, a former police chief, was joined by current police Chief William Lansdowne and representatives of the police union at the press conference. They noted that despite an exodus of officers, crime is down 2.3 percent citywide.

Lansdowne said, however, that homicides and armed robberies are on the rise, and that if officers continue to leave at this pace, it will have an impact on response times and police coverage.

The department currently has 214 positions open. Officials attribute the inability to fill the positions to both local and national trends. Locally, compensation for police recruits was found in the study to be at the bottom compared to 19 other agencies. Nationally, police recruiting has been hit by accelerated retirements coupled with a lack of interest by a new generation and increased military service for officers.

Click here to read our story on the report today.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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