SAN DIEGO – Shortly after the release of a U.S. Justice Department probe into officer misconduct at the San Diego Police Department found gaps in policies on officer misconduct, the San Diego Police Officers Association, Inc. discussed police staffing.
Since July 1, 2014, 110 officers have left the San Diego Police Department. At least 19 of them have headed to other agencies.
“We have a lot of senior officers retiring early or to other agencies. What we want to do is keep them here so we have that experience,” Officer Brian Marvel said.
Marvel, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, said while misconduct cannot be entirely blamed on a lack of senior officers, the two go hand in hand.
“I don’t want to say that staffing in its entirety is a pass for officers to do bad behavior, because I don’t think it’s acceptable at any level. The reality was our supervision at certain levels wasn’t necessarily there the level it used to be in the past.”
Marvel was referring to the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report which cited, in part, four incidents where officers were accused of sexual assault, two cases of officers driving under the influence and three cases where internal cover-ups were attempted to be made.
It also pointed to staffing and budget cuts dating back to fiscal year 2010.
“We need experience. We need accountability. We need supervision and we have lost so many officers over the years, so that report just validated what we already knew,” San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.
With fewer experienced officers leading the department, there was more room for junior officers to make costly mistakes.
The question is…will money fix misconduct?
Pending City Council approval, a new 5-year contact including raises and a uniform allowance for officers may increase officer retention.
“It is our belief that with this compensation package we’ll be able to compete with other agencies, especially other local agencies that many of our officers were leaving for better pay, better benefits,” Zimmerman said.
Marvel echoed her enthusiasm about the new contract that would go into effect this summer, at the start of a new fiscal year.
“Our goal was to focus on the officers who were actually leaving for other agencies. That’s why you see a delineation between officers that have less than 8 years versus officers that have more than 8 years,” he said.
Pumping money into recruiting and academy classes are also part of the new contract.
Wednesday afternoon’s meeting before the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee also included a presentation on SDPD body cameras and their success rate in the field.
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