City budget talks to address police & dispatch shortages

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SAN DIEGO — The City Council will begin four days of public hearings on Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s $3.3 billion proposed budget Wednesday morning, tackling the police staffing controversy that ranks as the spending plan’s biggest issue.

Following introductory remarks by mayoral staff and a review of the overall plan by the city’s independent budget analyst, the council members are scheduled to take up the budgets of the police and fire departments.

An IBA analysis released last week pointed out a lack of new initiatives in the budget proposal to address the drain of experienced police officers from the SDPD, which continues unabated despite compensation increases.

The IBA report, which praises the spending plan overall, calls the inability of the police department to recruit and retain enough officers “a multifaceted, complicated, and serious matter.”

In a related matter, Faulconer and SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman have been criticized for a shortfall of civilian employees who receive 911 calls and of dispatch officers, leading to callers being placed on hold for long periods of time.

A couple whose 3-day-old son was fatally mauled by their family dog about two weeks ago made two unsuccessful 911 calls before giving up and rushing the baby to the hospital. Last fall, two callers who had intruders in their homes in separate incidents each spent several minutes on hold.

Faulconer on Tuesday announced a series of initiatives to resolve the dispatching problem, and those that will affect the budget will be included in his “May Revise,” scheduled to be released May 17.

The City Council budget hearings will continue Thursday, Monday and Tuesday. An evening council session on the budget is scheduled for May 16.