City Council Approves Police Department Update

Following a period of deficit, the San Diego Police Department will undergo personnel and budget restoration

San Diego’s City Council unanimously approved the San Diego Five-Year Plan Update last Tuesday, which will begin restoring employees and equipment cut from the police department during the city’s budget crisis.

According to a report by the Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Marti Emerald, the San Diego Police Department suffered heavy financial losses by recent funding deficits.

“Our city is facing many public safety decisions that are important to our residents. Public safety is both a primary responsibility of local government and a core expectation of the San Diegans we serve,” Emerald said in a press release. “The approval of this plan will begin to address the needs of our police department.”

SDPD experienced a shortage of workers in every position. It currently has a budgeted staffing level of 1,970, but only 1,821 officers are actually serving on the force. An independent study ranked 75 police agencies in California based on their overall salaries and placed the SDPD in 68th place. Because of this, the number of new recruits is being outpaced by the number of veteran officers leaving for other police departments that can offer higher salaries and benefits. The SDPD can lose up to 12 active or potential officers every month.

The department’s budget allows for 504 civilian employees, but only 468 workers are currently on duty. In addition, a number of other positions, like the Mounted Enforcement Units and Police Investigative Aides, were cut down and the ABLE police chopper’s flight time was reduced from ten to six hours a day.

As a result, the department has become less effective in enforcing the law and preventing infractions. Despite a previous decline in crime rates, violent crime increased by 12.6 percent in the first five months of 2012. Furthermore, response times for all priority calls slowed down in 2011, compared to the previous year.

The Five-Year Plan will reverse these trends by allocating over $11 million in extra funding for the SDPD. Along with other cost-reduction programs, the money should help the department hire an additional 258 sworn officers and civilian employees over the next five years. The money will also be used to renovate police facilities and upgrade their aging technology and vehicles. This includes replacing the critical 9-1-1 Computer Aided Dispatch system, which still uses outdated and increasingly unreliable software.

With the Five-Year Plan slated to run through the fiscal year 2018, the City Council hopes to provide a stronger police presence in San Diego, with up-to-date equipment, faster response times and decreased overtime expenses.

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