The Sunroad Centrum building has made me physically ill. No kidding, I have developed a virus that has pretty much knocked the heck out of me for the past few days and my doctor believes it was caused by stress and exhaustion. Personally, I don’t feel that moving to a different home with an infant child, and another one due at any moment, led to this illness. No, I think I got sick, because the San Diego Police Officer’s Association building is directly across from the Sunroad building and having to look at it all the time, coupled with the ad nauseam media coverage of it, did me in. I figured since Sunroad has been blamed for everything else in this city, they may as well take responsibility for me being in bed for two days straight as well.

My claim might be pretty ridiculous, but nowhere near as ridiculous as the time and attention that has been given to a building that might pose a safety risk to pilots during inclement weather. Can we please return our focus to the very real safety risks faced by San Diegans everyday due to the continued staffing problems at the San Diego Police Department?

Will Carless wrote a real good article last week that talked about police attrition in the wake of the SDPD pay hike that actually upset many POA members. In essence, many officers I know believe that Will’s article tried to paint a picture that everything has returned to normal within the SDPD and that full staffing is not too far down the road. I don’t believe the article did that and I thought my comments in it pretty much showed that I am taking a wait-and-see attitude toward things.

For anyone who really wants to know what is going on, I’ll try and sum it up in a paragraph or two. First, as of today, SDPD has 230 open officer positions and another 220 officers who are unavailable for other reasons (like being pregnant, injured, or serving our nation by fulfilling their military commitments).

That means about 20 percent of our budgeted strength can not be fielded for duty. As Will noted in his article, the last recruiting class had more than 40 recruits and the one scheduled for October is promised to have more than 50 recruits in it. Being the skeptic that I am, I bet one of the recruiters lunch they would never get that many recruits in the next class. He smiled, took the bet and went away happy. I thinking I better keep my credit card with me come October, because I know he can eat.

First, I think we should give credit where credit is due and if we can truly recruit that many officers, without lowering standards, Capt. Kanaski and his crew in recruiting and backgrounds deserve credit for this accomplishment. However, before we jump up and down and celebrate, let us take a look at the best possible scenario for the department.

With the number of retirements scheduled, and with the continued circus being led by our current city attorney, I figure that we will still conservatively lose around 130 officers a year for all reasons (retirements, leaving for other agencies, etc.). Thus, it will still take 3-4 years before SDPD is back to full budgeted strength, and that is if we can continue the recruitment and retention of officers. This is a huge if and I’ll explain why.

The only thing that will keep the exodus of officers from resuming are continued pay and benefit hikes that will bring SDPD in line with competing agencies and they come at a great cost. A 1 percent budgeted pay increase costs the city about $2.2 million and if San Diego wants to pay market rate salaries for its cops, the raises have to be minimally set at 6 percent every fiscal year. This is because the cities were in competition with mostly have long term contract with guaranteed raise for officers set at 4 to 5 percent per year. To gain ground, we give cops 6 percent a year for many more years or we fall behind again. It really is that simple.

Now before I get a bunch of nasty comments about the greed and power of the all mighty SDPOA down at City Hall, let me set you straight about a few things. Mayor Sanders did not give us a raise last year because he likes the POA, because he was the former chief, or because he wants an SDPOA endorsement for mayor next year. In fact, when he was running for mayor last time, Jerry Sanders walked into the POA hall told the members he did not want or need anything from us and pretty much said how things were going to be when he was mayor. He pretty much left no doubt who is in charge of things, which brings me to the point. The SDPOA only got a raise because we were dead last in the region in compensation and Mayor Sanders was forced to give us one.

The pay increase moved Police Recruits from the 0 Percentile in the Buck Study to the 13 percentile, junior officers or POI’s started in the 13th percentile and this is where they remained, while POII’s (the bulk of the police department) went the 6the percentile to the 33rd. As you can see, even with a very expensive new contract, officers with SDPD still are paid near the bottom to lower third as compared to other agencies in the region.

I have no doubt Mayor Sanders will cut hundreds of more jobs and streamline government to this best of his ability. However, when all the cuts have been made and all the savings counted; will there be enough money to pay for the public safety needs of this city without new revenue sources?

By the way, I don’t think the entire Council is very happy with the SPDOA either, but I will discuss more of that in my next blog.


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