SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s police officers are among the lowest-paid in the state, and are at the bottom in some categories, according to a salary survey released by the city Thursday.
Total compensation — including base salary and benefits — ranged from 77 percent of the average of law enforcement agencies studied for recruits to 90 percent of average for a captain.
For years now, the department has struggled to retain experienced officers, who have been poached by nearby police departments that offer more lucrative pay. The SDPD has been chronically more than 100 officers below what is called for in the city budget.
City leaders have been aware of the problem for a couple of years and have taken some steps to correct it, including the commissioning of the salary survey of 18 other law enforcement agencies statewide.
“Unfortunately, this report highlights a serious challenge that we all recognize and must overcome,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “We need to make our police department compensation more competitive with other law enforcement agencies so we can stem the tide of officers leaving.”
He said he’s committed to working with the SDPD and Police Officers Association to find solutions.
Brian Marvel, the president of the San Diego POA said, “This salary survey confirms what we’ve known for a long time — San Diego police officers are at the bottom of the market when it comes to compensation. Our officers are aware of this fact, which is why nearly 300 officers hired since 2005 have left our department for other agencies — at great expense to San Diego taxpayers.”
San Diego ranks last in pay for officers and sergeants, is second-to-last in compensating recruits, is 14th for lieutenants and 13th for captains.
Because of the availability of data, only 15 of the 18 other agencies studied were included in the total compensation chart.
Employees at a job level of police officer I or II makes more than $96,000 in base pay — before benefits — in San Francisco and over $91,000 in San Jose, according to the survey. The base pay in the same employee category for the Sheriff’s Department in San Diego is more than $68,600.
For the SDPD, it is not quite $62,600.
“In a very competitive market for police officers this study confirms we must immediately address these challenges as we move forward as a department to ensure we attract and retain the very best police officers who proudly serve our city,” SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.
The survey looked at pay at the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, in local cities such as Carlsbad, Chula Vista and El Cajon; large cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose; and medium-sized municipalities like Anaheim, Bakersfield and Fresno.
It also compared policies for overtime, step and merit increases, shift differential for evening and overnight shifts and standby or on-call pay.