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Budget cuts to police academies, the unprecedented flight of cops and the tough task of recruiting new ones have led to San Diego’s sizable police officer shortfall, and it will likely take up to five years before the city replenishes its force, the City Council’s budget professional said in a report today.

Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin said she highlighted the city’s low cop count to set the stage for the upcoming budget season, which begins in April. When the council heads into those budget talks, it could potentially have already forged a new contract with the police union.

The cops are hoping the labor talks will yield their first raise since 2004. Their take-home pay is well-below the average for police in Southern California. Mayor Jerry Sanders has said that he wants to provide officers a pay raise despite his plan to cut the city’s day-to-day budget by $87 million to pay for looming deficits in pension, retiree healthcare and infrastructure.

Tevlin notes that only 1,729 sworn officers are available for duty; the city made room in this year’s budget for 2,108. She added that officers are leaving the department at a rate of 14 per month, an improvement from last year when 18 departed monthly. It could take between three and five years before the Police Department returns to normal staffing levels, Tevlin said.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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