The San Diego Police Department is facing a man made crisis of epic proportion. In the late seventies and early eighties the department went through an exodus of officers, when surrounding agencies were offering substantially more money and a better working climate. The officers leaving the department had five (5) to twelve (12) years experience and were going to agencies that valued their experience and were providing more money. The average experience of the 100+ senior officers, detectives, supervisors and managers leaving the department in the next 50 days, is 27+ years. In 1978, 1979, 1980 academy classes contained 75 to 100 recruits in each class. Currently the classes range from 25 to 50 recruits per class.
The latest contract imposed on members of the San Diego Police Department by the mayor and endorsed by the city council has created the exodus of the most experienced and senior officers. A mayor who is more concerned with politics and the Republican agenda and how he looks and sounds to the public, created this crisis; a crisis that DID NOT have to be. Broken promises and vindictive, posturing by the mayor created an environment where those of retirement age were forced to choose between the careers they love or preserving a life after their dedicated service to the citizens of San Diego is complete.
The mayor espouses the ease of hiring replacements for those leaving. He gloats as he discusses replacing experience with enthusiasm. The mayor is banking on a large pool of candidates to draw from to fill the vacancies he has created. WAKE UP people!!! The San Diego Police Department is on a precarious ledge as they move to hire large numbers of officers from a LIMITED field of QUALIFIED candidates. The mayor will paint a bright picture; large numbers of candidates because of un-employment and layoffs all around the nation. I have a wake-up call for the mayor. One only need to look at Los Angeles, New York or Miami and the results of failing to hire or retain qualified police officers. We are in an "emergency" RIGHT NOW; our ability to hire and retain qualified police officers is going to be a struggle and will not occur over night. This emergency will ultimately result in hiring practices that significantly reduce the quality of candidate the department is able to hire. I won't begin to discuss the ability to "RETAIN" those who make it through training.
The ability of the San Diego Police Department to provide excellent customer service to our citizens has greatly been undermined by the mayor and city council's actions. The safety of the public is no longer guaranteed and should not be assumed. I will say it again; come July 1, 2009, there will be less than 1700, ABLE BODIED police officers, to police America's 7th largest city; at a time when crime is rising and the public's expectation exceeds our abilities.
One last thought; let's not forget the mayor's plan calls for a large number of the vacancies he created to REMAIN VACANT. The mayor is banking on the inability of the Police Department to hire replacements for those leaving. When positions remain vacant, he can place, rather than accept responsibility for this disaster.