SAN DIEGO – The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is implementing new incentives to try and recruit and retain staff.

The law enforcement agency is short about 14 percent of its sworn personnel positions; there are currently 375 openings in total available.

Interim Sheriff Anthony Ray said in the last ten years, there has been a decrease in people going into law enforcement.

“We are still doing the job that we have but some of that is being done on overtime,” Ray said.

Despite the shortages, the interim sheriff said there isn’t cause for any concerns.

What’s causing the shortage? Ray believes that “unprecedented” events over the last two years are contributing factors.

“The combination of the anti-law enforcement sentiment year and COVID has really reduced the amount of people on our staff,” Ray said.

The law enforcement officials said applications to the Sheriff’s Department were down about 25% from 2020-2021.

“I believe almost all law enforcement across the country was painted with a broad brush of systemic racism and it drove people that were applying to our job, not to apply.”

He said the department typically loses about 5 percent of staff in a year due to various natural reasons including retirements, resignations, different careers, etc. But, he said last year the department lost more.

“We were the only agency in San Diego that was full for a number of years, in fact, we had a waiting list of people that were coming in, we normally lose about 180-190 people every year,” Ray said. “But we lost over 300 people last year.”

Sheriff Ray said at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department was turning people away from training because they could not hold recruitment for seven months. He said when testing resumed, they could not fit as many people into one training as they did before the pandemic because of CDC protocols.

Ray said they are expecting to see the same amount of applicants this year as they did last year, and that while it’s unfortunate the number is not increasing, he is glad that it’s not a decrease.

Sheriff Ray believes the new incentives, which could be put into action by mid-August after final approval from the County Board of Supervisors, will make a difference in recruiting and retaining staff.

“It’s tougher to hire people and recruit people to these very important jobs and we got to be enticing more people to do it,” Supervisor Jim Desmond said. “At this point, it’s not a safety concern but we could get there and we want to make sure we don’t.”

Desmond said the incentives could include up to $20,000 in a signing bonus for already-trained staff coming from other departments (this way the department saves on training costs). Desmond said there could be incentives for relocation costs and vacation time as well.

Sheriff Ray said they have already started giving bonuses to those working the night shift, and have implemented a referral bonus program.

To join the department and view other career openings, not restricted to law enforcement, click HERE.