On Wednesday, Mayor Jerry Sanders and police Chief William Lansdowne stood in front of a bank of television cameras and journalists and announced that the Police Department’s recruitment efforts are bearing fruit. Attrition from the Police Department has slowed significantly, they said, and the department is attracting increasing numbers of recruits to its academies.
But the police union has urged caution about the figures the department released. A director of the Police Officers Association said the important figures to look at are not how many recruits are entering the academies, but how many are graduating from those academies and how many are sticking with the department and completing their first year of field training.
“They are creating the illusion that this problem’s over when it clearly isn’t,” said Jeff Jordon, a POA director.
The recruitment and retention numbers are being scrutinized by both sides of a labor negotiations battle currently ongoing between the police and mayor. During last year’s negotiations, which ended with police officers winning a significant raise, the recruitment and retention crisis became a highly contentious and divisive issue that played out publicly throughout the course of the negotiations.
While the Police Department has been credited with stemming attrition and bringing greater numbers of recruits into police academies, Jordon said many of those recruits have not stayed on at the department.
Jordon provided me with records showing that 24 of the 35 recruits to the department’s 71st academy in January 2007 graduated from the academy and completed field training. The 71st academy was the first academy to benefit from the department’s revamped recruitment drive.
The 31 percent attrition rate for that academy was the highest out of the last 11 academies, according to a spreadsheet provided by the Mayor’s Office.
Despite the above-average attrition rate, that academy still contributed the fourth-highest number of police officers out of the last 11 academies. And even if the above-average attrition rate continues, the latest academies, which have attracted far more recruits than other academies in recent history, will still produce more new police officers than San Diego’s seen in years.
It will be interesting to watch, in coming months, not just how many people the department manages to attract into the police academies, but how many of those recruits actually end up staying with the Police Department. That’s something I’ll be keeping track of carefully.
The records I have show that six recruits failed to graduate from the 72nd academy and eight failed to graduate from the 73rd.
As those graduating classes complete their field training, I’ll be keeping an eye on how many drop out and how many actually make it as full-time police officers.