San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit speaks at a press conference. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

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This post first appeared in the Feb. 28 Morning Report. Subscribe to the daily newsletter here.

The San Diego Police Department is projected to exceed its overtime budget by more than $9 million by the end of the fiscal year.

At a Monday City Council briefing, Police Chief David Nisleit said the largest share of the expected overage beyond the roughly $40 million budgeted is a result of efforts to respond to increased violent crime and the need to address patrol gaps due to staffing shortages. 

At the same time, Nisleit said, the department has decreased overtime for its Neighborhood Policing Division, which responds to homelessness and quality-of-life issues, by more than $2 million and instead directed more resources to responding to 911 calls. Nisleit acknowledged that has meant fewer patrols in some areas downtown and its outskirts.

San Diego Police parked in the middle of the road to talk to a man yelling in Hillcrest on Dec. 20, 2022.
San Diego Police vehicle parked in Hillcrest on Dec. 20, 2022. / Photo by Gabriel Schneider for Voice of San Diego

The shift in priorities reflects the department’s struggles to keep up with calls, a reality that has led to surging response times for situations not considered life-threatening emergencies. The department has largely blamed staffing shortages for rising waits.

An analysis by the city’s independent budget analyst’s office found that staffing challenges – and thus increased overtime expenses – are unlikely to lessen in the near future even if the department meets its recruitment goals and sees reduced attrition.

After questions from councilmembers and a presentation from the head of the city’s white-collar workers’ union highlighted staffing vacancies among SDPD’s civilian workforce, Nisleit said he’d like to increase the department’s civilian corps to handle some duties now handled by officers to try to address his department’s challenges. Nisleit said that could perhaps include responding to records requests or taking burglary reports in situations where suspects aren’t present. 

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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