A recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune addressed the problem of officer within the San Diego Police Department. SDPD officers are leaving for greener pastures with other local law enforcement agencies. According to the Union Tribune, the City of San Diego has reduced the monthly take-home pay of San Diego police officers by an average of about $450 per month as it attempts to pay off a pension deficit of at least $1.4 billion. Some of the money goes toward retirement accounts, some helps pay for medical coverage.
This complicates an already serious problem regarding the lack of officers for SDPD. Currently, the city’s ratio of officers to citizens languishes near 1.6-to-1,000, one of the lowest in California and the nation. The average national ratio for a similar sized city is 2.2 officers to 1,000 citizens. The department would need to hire more than 110 officers a year for the next six years just to maintain the current substandard ratio.
In recent months, allegations have been that the San Diego Police Department has been manipulating crime statistics for political purposes to make it seem as if crime is down in San Diego. Instead of refusing to act on citizen's arrests to keep crime statistics down, it would more logical that the SDPD would want to inform the San Diego City Council of the true nature of its situation so that more funding could be made available to hire more officers.
The police department is not the only San Diego public safety agency that is vastly underfunded. San Diego’s firefighter-to-citizen ratio is currently .69-to-1,000, and experts say, like the police ratio, the figure is realistically much lower. Most other cities the size of San Diego have a 1-to-1,000 firefighter-to-citizen ratio.
It is vital that the City Council take ownership of the pension problem and work quickly to address the city's financial woes before the city's resources are stretched to the limit by another disaster like the October 2004 fires.
About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.
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