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Everybody’s reality is a little different. For instance, more than 100 San Diego Police Officers have resigned from this department in the last 18 months as a direct result of the contract impasses between the SDPOA and the city of San Diego. They joined other law enforcement agencies because they truly believed that the politicians and other citizens in this city would never provide them with a compensation package that is comparable to other departments in the region.
More troubling is the reality that 200 to 300 more officers are waiting to see the results of the upcoming labor negotiations. This is not my estimation, but one being put forward by high ranking officers within SDPD during private meetings with the rank-and-file patrol officers and front-line supervisors.
Some officers believe it is already too late to pull SDPD from this crisis and they believe that this department will become comprised of corrupt, inefficient and incompetent officers in the future. They believe that these are the types of recruits you are forced to hire when you provide compensation packages that are woefully behind what other departments in the region are offering. Senior officers reach back in history and mention the past troubles found in police departments like Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans to make their points. I refuse to accept this as a possibility, but then again maybe I am in denial of this future inevitable reality.
So the question remains, how do we stop the slide of SDPD into a place the citizens of San Diego surely do not want to see their police department go? How do we find local solutions to what is truly a national problem pertaining to recruitment and retention of officers?
Everyone in this city needs to acknowledge one basic fact: Every other city in this region, and country for that matter, are coming to San Diego to recruit our experienced officers. We are “sitting ducks” right now, because the city of San Diego can not currently compete against the compensation packages being offered by these cities.
For example, Murrieta does not even hire its own recruits or officers with less than a few years any longer, because they find it easier and cheaper just to hire an experienced officer from SDPD that is dissatisfied with his current compensation package.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department is offering $5,000 signing bonuses to lateral transfers. That is starting to look awful good to SDPD officers right about now.
When Mayor Sanders talks about supply and demand as it relates to cops, you can bet these are the things he is thinking about.
Next, since this is a national problem requiring local solutions, let’s take a look as to how some of our neighbors are dealing with the problem.
Los Angeles is down over a 1,000 officers, which is about 10 percent of their budgeted department. They are not thinking about how to address this problem, they are already taking action. First, L.A. raised the fees they charge for garbage pick-up to fund the hiring and compensation of officers. Next, they went further and began offering $5,000-10,000 hiring bonuses.
Long Beach had a long-term contract with their police officers, but they implemented a mid-contract pay adjustment to keep them from transferring to their higher-paying neighbor Huntington Beach. Long Beach also has a mortgage-assistance plan for police officers as do many other cities in the state looking to retain and attract the best candidates.
I could go on, but I am running out of blog time (got to take care of the family) so let’s get to what San Diegans can do to resolve this crisis:
First, I would like to call upon San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to recognize the magnitude of this problem and assist in finding solutions. If you view their web page at www.sdchamber.org, you will see this organization focuses on transportation, infrastructure, and housing as some of its public policy priorities. Well, I think our business community should focus on public safety issues as well, since any rise in crime rates will substantially impact tourism and business relocation to this city.
I believe that the Chamber of Commerce should join with the city of San Diego and revisit the transient occupancy tax placed on our out-of-town visitors. Tourists severely drain police resources from San Diego residents. I spend hour after hour arresting felons and taking crime reports from various hotels in my patrol division. Some of my recent contacts in local hotels have included a child molester that fled the state of Florida and one of San Diego County’s most wanted that was setting up a meth lab in a hotel with her felonious friends on Hotel Circle. Citizens should realize that while I am tied up for hours arresting these individuals, that I am not patrolling their streets in Hillcrest and Mission Hills. Thus, I am asking the citizens to support this issue as well.
Next, I know everybody was waiting for this one, so let’s talk about trash pick-up. To continue with the reality check, at least half of San Diego residents rent or live in condos and they are already paying a trash fee. It is time for single-family residences to pay their fair share as well. A trash fee and a T.O.T increase could generate about $60 million in new revenue for this city. Go to www.onlinecpi.org for more details.
Now it’s time for a Proposition C discussion. Community activists like Carl DeMaio were the driving force behind it. Mayor Jerry Sanders and Mike Aguirre were outspoken about it and most importantly, the citizens voted for it.
So let’s implement it. However, while we’re at it, I think it might be a good idea to look at another of DeMaio’s ideas by going to www.sandiegobudget.org and clicking on case studies for the City Attorney’s Office. Well, DeMaio says we can save about $15 million by outsourcing the prosecution of misdemeanors to the District Attorney’s Office. Since Aguirre was such a big advocate of outsourcing, he should have no problem supporting this tax saving idea.
Finally, what can San Diego Police Officers do to support a solution to this crisis? I think for starters we can acknowledge the mayor’s overtures toward moving us to a competitive benefit package and continue to go about our duties by being the professionals we are recognized around the world as being.
By the way, if you thought I was going to comment about the raising of the retirement age, I just can not do that as it might be a topic in upcoming negotiations. I am sorry for this, because I definitely have some opinions about it.