The San Diego Police Officers Association has expressed concern about the city’s level of police staffing for some time and even started posting the number of vacancies on its website. In September, the police union reported that the department was 262 officers below its budgeted staffing levels.

On Thursday, the U-T reported a memo from the Mayor’s Office about the number of vacancies across all city departments. That memo shows police have about 320 vacancies.

The number of vacant positions could be critical as city officials try to close a $179 million budget deficit this fall. Numerous officials have talked about cutting vacant positions and even additional job losses. How many vacant positions could be cut without impacting the livelihood of current employees?

Brian Marvel, director of the Police Officers Association, sent me this statement in an e-mail today about the city’s new memo:

“I am not sure how they came up with that number.  Even if you add in the civilians, it only equals 276 as of today, October 22, 2009. … Twenty officers have left since July 1, 2009.”

I also contacted Rachel Laing, spokeswoman for the mayor, who suggested a couple possible reasons for the disparity. The mayor’s number includes vacant civilian and sworn officer positions as of September 18. Some may have been filled since, but this would “probably only account for handful of positions.”

Laing also said the city’s payroll system counts any position as “vacant” if that position is not filled by a permanent employee. Some vacant positions might be currently occupied by temporary of provisional employees. That definition of “vacant” might be different than the Police Officers Association. I haven’t heard back from Marvel, but I’ll keep you posted on this confusion.

— KEEGAN KYLE

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