SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Police Department is facing new problems. The budget for overtime pay is set to be exceeded by millions.
There’s been an uptick in violent crime and police patrols are being stretched thin.
SDPD is reportedly the second lowest staffed police department in the country by ratio to the community, Chief David Nisleit shared at the city’s budget meeting Monday. “2021 and 2022 came and we’ve lost more than probably almost second in the history of this police department,” Chief Nisleit said.
As of just two weeks ago, there were over 200 vacant positions for sworn officers sending the department $9 million over its $40 million budget in order to compensate.
The funding comes from the city’s general funding budget, and according to the San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera when departments go over a ripple effect follows.
“When we pull extra funds from the police budget that means there’s less there to hire the people that we need for these other jobs that everyone wants done, streetlights, potholes, critical services, maybe not right there with public safety but just a notch below,” said Elo-Rivera.
In January alone, there were 216 vacancies for sworn officers with reportedly 16 leaving each month. That number is even higher for civilian position vacancies which saw a 116% increase in open positions since 2019 and nearly 113% for dispatcher vacancies all in the same time period.
Elo-Rivera pinned the issue on a lack of civilian and dispatch hirings, leaving officers left to work hours overtime in communication and dispatch centers in order to pick up the slack.
“Are we using our resources in the best way possible when we have sworn officers who are having to answer dispatch calls or having to respond to relatively minor concerns to the neighborhood?” asked Elo-Rivera.
The same reigns true for San Diego Fire-Rescue which is expected to surpass over $15 million of its $32 million fiscal budget.
Fire Chief Colin Stowell tells FOX 5 that those funds already belong to the department.
“Our overtime budget has not kept up with the salary increases that the labor agreements have had. We understand it’s a concern with (the) council, it’s a concern with the mayor, our overtime budget, we don’t like being overbudgeted. But I think when we start the year underbudgeted, it kind of sets us up in a hole to move forward,” Chief Stowell explained.
Going over budget in overtime is a trend dating back to 2014 for both San Diego Police and Fire Rescue Departments.
For context, in the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year, San Diego Police was $10 million over its budget, primarily due to staffing shortages, according to the city’s Office of the Independent Analysis Budget Report.
The issue was brought to the city council Monday, but no action was taken. It did, however, open up conversations that could lead to hiring incentives and improved retention to help ease the burden of ever-growing staffing shortages.