Proposed job cuts in the San Diego Police Department will mean its services decrease. But will cutting some positions mean the revenue it generates decreases, too?

Yes: This is the argument that white-collar union head Michael Zucchet and civilian police department workers repeatedly made at yesterday’s City Council budget meeting. If Mayor Jerry Sanders’ budget proposal gets passed, 128 civilian police positions will be eliminated — 86 of those are now filled.

No: This is the argument that the Mayor’s Office has made in the last two weeks. In his budget reduction proposal, the mayor pledged to not cut sworn police officers — only civilians that didn’t generate revenue.

But the union argues that Sanders’ proposal does cut civilians who generate revenue. The union’s appeal to City Council was simple: You shouldn’t cut a job that creates more money than it costs. Civilian police employees issue parking and red-light camera citations and respond to code compliance matters.

“In the case of the (police code compliance officers), what they collect substantially exceeds what they cost,” Zucchet said.

The Mayor’s Office concedes that these civilian positions generate revenue. But it believes overall revenues won’t be affected because sworn officers will take over the duties.

Zucchet argued it didn’t make sense to have higher-paid employees doing things that lower-paid employees could.

His ace-in-the-hole, which he waved around at the meeting, was a two-year-old internal police department streamlining study that recommended increasing civilian employees to save money.

I later asked city Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone if cutting the civilian positions will cost the city.

“We don’t believe so,” Goldstone said.

He added that the Mayor’s Office did allow for the possibility that revenue from the department would decline slightly.

Goldstone also dismissed the argument that sworn officers shouldn’t do jobs previously held by civilians for cost reasons. It just means that sworn officers have to do more, he said.

“In a perfect environment, where money was no object, you would hire lower-paid employees to do certain jobs instead of higher-paid employees to do those,” he said. “We’re consolidating. We’re all picking up extra work that maybe we weren’t doing a year ago or six months ago.”


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