I'm sitting here this morning having just finished my 1st cup of coffee and wondering who out there is really paying attention? I think sometimes when you are so close to a situation you don't see what is going on around you. I'm one of those that find it difficult to turn my mind off (I'm sure some of you noticed I didn't say brain) when I lay down at night to go to sleep. I have a tendency to think about all the things I want to write or say and often try and think of solutions to problems that constantly nag in the back of my mind.
Music tends to have a soothing effect that will at times numb my thoughts and allow me to begin to drift off to sleep; last night not so much. Since I began my blog I have interacted with many people, most if not all; active, retired or former members of the San Diego Police Department. As you would guess, 99% of them have voiced positive feedback and shared their utter dismay at the actions of the mayor. I have heard from several retired ranking members of the department, retired civilian employees, many retired and active rank-and-file members who all shared their experiences in one way or another with our former chief, now mayor. I've got to tell you, I was shocked and amazed to discover the level of contempt people have when speaking of the mayor.
As I was thinking of the conversations and e-mail exchanges, I began to wonder if anyone else was paying attention. I know you have the occasional article in the voiceofsandiego; the op Ed pieces in the Union Tribune; and the babble on local talk radio; centered on the mayor and his actions on behalf of the citizens of San Diego. I don't think the general taxpaying public really understands what is going on in the city. When you watch the news at night (Pick ANY channel) all you get is talking heads who read what is often printed in the Union Tribune. I know the Union Tribune, as recently as this week, changed hands and I have to wonder if the content will change to. I find it shameful the only newspaper in town is written at a sixth grade level and by those who harbor an agenda. What I find more painful is a purported "news reporting" entity, like the Union Tribune, has for years refused to report factually and without bias, the true goings-on in the City of San Diego.
When the people of San Diego have only the Union Tribune as their conduit for information regarding what goes on locally around them; add to the mix, every news reporting television station in San Diego is simply reading the Union Tribune on their daily newscast; and the talking heads on local talk radio stations simply taking their cues from the headlines in the Union Tribune; why would any of us, for a nano-second, believe the citizens of San Diego actually understand what is happening to the San Diego Police Department?
Yesterday I was perusing a list someone had compiled of those people who had announced in some manner or fashion they are retiring before June 30. This list was brought to me by a 30 year veteran, who was anguishing over the thought of having to add their name to this list because of the latest contract imposed upon those who protect and serve the citizens of San Diego. The discussion turned to, "Are you leaving?" I replied, "I don't know; I really don't want to." I asked, "Are you leaving?" This person replied, "I don't know; I don't want to either, but I don't think I have a choice." This seems to be the theme as you walk around Headquarters. These discussions are between those who all have over 28 years experience. Then came the question, "How many actual years of service do you think will be walking out the door by June 30, 2009?" I thought for a second and realized the number was going to be staggering, but also wondered if anyone cared.
How can people care about something they have no knowledge of? How can people care about the dire effects of the dismantling of a police department when the information they are provided is contrary to reality? Why would the average person think there was a crisis looming if when they read the newspaper or watched the news on TV, there is no reporting of the fact, over 100 officers from the rank of assistant chief to patrolman, with an average 27+ years service as a sworn police officers, were all walking out the door in the span of the next 50 days?
What would the public's reaction be if they were made aware of the facts surrounding the exodus of officers from the San Diego Police Department? I have often said the only time the public reacts to anything, is for them to be personally affected. If the public was provided with the fact the department is losing an assistant chief with 33 years experience; a captain with 31 years experience; 2 lieutenants with a combined 65 years experience; approximately 12 detective sergeants (This number may climb to as many as 15) with a combined 372 years experience; 21 patrol sergeants with a combined 621 years experience; approximately 24 detectives; of which 21 are in specialized investigative units, who have a combined 698 years experience; 3 agents with a combined 92 years experience; and as of today, 33 police officers which includes; 2 K-9 officers, 6 motor officers, and 6 administrative officers, with a combined 814 years experience; would they understand the magnitude of the loss?
If the public was also given the information the San Diego Police Department has a, "Budgeted" strength of 2127; with only 1973 filled positions; 200 of these officers NOT available for various reasons (Extended Sick, Terminal, Industrial, Military, Civil Service leaves; Long Term Disability; Light Duty) leaving an available police force (Including Chiefs, Captains, Lieutenants) of 1755 Sworn Police Officers to police a City this size would they care? Would the public understand come June 30, 2009, with the additional loss of over 100 of the Department's most experienced officers, the Police Department would have approximately 1650 sworn, able bodied police officers to police this City and provide for their safety?
The uninformed, complacent, naysayers will downplay any crisis. Spin cycles will work overtime pumping up the 98 recruits in the academy and more to come. Don't confuse fact with fiction they will tell you. Fact; 44 recruits (IF, they all graduate) will enter "Field Training" in early August; the FIRST "new" officers coming out of the Academy. Fact; these 44 recruits will not be functioning officers for six to ten months as they learn the basics of police work. Fact; the next group of recruits (24) will not enter field training until November, followed by an additional thirty (30) in late January. If, and that is a very big if, 90% of these recruits complete field training, we add 90 un-experienced officers to the ranks of an already grossly understaffed police department that will have lost over 225 officers in the span of ONE year.
Who is going to fill the vacancies left from those retiring? When those vacancies are filled, who will fill the void in the uniformed ranks of those stepping into the vacant investigative and supervisory positions? Who will be the first casualty because of the inability of officers to respond in a timely manner due to the "Doing more with less" mentality of a City Government lead by this mayor?
Who's paying attention out there????