Sunday, October 25, 2009

San Diego; America’s Most Dangerous Destination

A recent memorandum from Nader Tirandazi, Financial Management Director, dated October 19, 2009, talked about current vacancies within the City of San Diego. Tirandazi was responding to a City Council request to provide a list of current vacancies in the City by department. The memorandum detailed 832 vacancies city wide with 320 of these vacancies in the Police Department and 106 in the Fire Department. The memorandum does not tell the whole story.

The ability of officers to protect citizens has been impacted by the policies of the city council, mayor and last year's imposed contract. The exodus of officers, almost all of them with over 25 years of experience and the inability of the department to retain younger officers, has created one of this nation's most dangerous destinations. The mayor and others will paint a picture of all's well and tell people a larger number of officers does not equate to safer streets. They will boast of lower crime statistics and a safe city while explaining the exodus of almost 300 officers in one year. There is much they are not telling citizens.

The actual numbers of officers available to protect citizens have shrunk every year since the 1990's. There are currently 1,862 sworn police officers, which includes all ranks, to police the City of San Diego. This is 262.75 short of budgeted strength (Someone help me understand the .75 officer). Of these 1,862 sworn officers, 61 of them are recruits, who may be enthusiastic, but are of no help when it comes to providing police protection to our citizens. An additional 64 of these sworn members of the department are managers (Lieutenants, Captains, and Chiefs) who do not participate in the protection of citizens and do not answer radio calls or respond to emergencies. There is an additional 126 sworn officers who are unavailable for service for a variety of reasons (Industrial Leave, Workers Comp, Military Leave, Long Term Disability, Light Duty to name a few). This leaves 1,611 sworn officers from a budgeted strength of 2,124.75, available to provide for the public's safety. A far cry from the numbers provided to taxpayers by the mayor and others.

The population of the city of San Diego is 1.3 million people; with 470,000 households; living in a land area of 324 square miles. Between 2000 and 2008 the population of San Diego grew 9% from 1,223,000 people to 1,337,000 while at the same time our police department shrunk in size. In 2006, the mayor commissioned a pay and benefit comparison report where he declared he wanted to "Stem the loss of officers" who were leaving in droves for other agencies offering better pay and benefits. In the report the mayor boasts of the city being the "4th safest city in America" citing a drop in overall crime of 2.3% for the first ten months of the year. The report, conducted by Buck Consultants, and presented December 19, 2006, showed the police department had 1,895 active sworn personnel (Today 1,862). Of those, 153 are on some kind of leave for a total of available sworn personnel of 1,742 (Today 1,611). The Department was budgeted for 2,089 officers in 2006 (Today 2,125.75). 683 officers have left the department since 2003 and only 390 have been hired.

In July of 2006, the mayor and police chief announced the "City's Comprehensive Police Recruitment and Retention Plan" in which the mayor called the loss of experienced police officers "a crisis for our community." On page 4 of this document, an e-mail the mayor sent police officers was re-produced. The diatribe has proven to be simply words, to buy him time to continue his failed policies. The entire "Plan" as you will, was and continues to be nothing more than empty words on a piece of paper. The pay and benefit study, as well as the recruitment and retention plan, were used as pacifiers to appease officers contemplating leaving.

In 2008, the RAND Corporation conducted a study of the San Diego Police Department's hiring and retention of officers. The study focused on recruiting and offered suggestions for reaching the budgeted staffing level of 2,125.75 sworn officers. After only hiring a record three (3) officers in 2003 and 2004; a lofty goal of hiring fifty (50) recruits for each academy class was proposed in hopes of reaching budgeted levels. It became clear, with the recent exodus of officers in 2009; this goal was not going to be realized any time soon. The ability to safely police a city the size of San Diego with roughly 1,000 patrol officers, is akin to asking our SRT Unit to travel to Tijuana and handle police duties there while their officers come to San Diego for the training the mayor has so generously offered. It may work for a short period of time but eventually someone is going to die.

The mayor is now demanding a reduction of $74 million dollars from the police department's budget for next year. If you eliminate the positions currently vacant (262.75) the result will be a $32 million dollar savings. The mayor is only willing to recognize a $24 million dollar savings because he does not view benefits as being part of the equation. This is another example of number and cost manipulation by the city's administration. So where do you cut $50 million dollars from a department budget that is already operating with insufficient resources? The elimination of personnel is the fasted way to coming up with this money. There is always the elimination of overtime; elimination of holidays; reduction of benefits; wage reductions; elimination or reduction of medical insurance; or the demotion of supervisors at all ranks that will still leave the need to eliminate positions.

How many people would need to be eliminated to make up the $50 million dollars? My calculations indicate somewhere between 320 and 360 employees (Sworn and non-sworn). So those individuals in the academy; field training; POI's and even a few POII's will be staring down the possibility of losing their jobs. Realistic? Possible.

Today the San Diego Police Department has fewer resources on which to draw to recruit and retain officers and to protect our citizens. Yet our responsibilities are expanding to include homeland security, immigration, cybercrime, and human trafficking, and there is even an increase of traditional duties in all areas of our communities that have rising levels of crime and violence. All of this is being made even more difficult because of the policies of the mayor and city council. The taxpayers have clearly placed public safety as their number one priority, yet the mayor and council have not. They have used smoke and mirrors to cover their actions by putting out twisted and in some cases false statistics related to crime. Their glowing words have painted a picture full of lies and deception.

It is time the mayor and city council stop playing politics and start making public safety their number one priority. This will require the chief to stand up and provide realistic and honest crime statistics and the current status of the police department's ability to provide adequate police services to this community. The current level of staffing has created an environment in San Diego that is dangerous for citizens and police officers alike. The lack of sufficient officers; coupled with the lack of experience; has already resulted in an increase of 113% in preventable traffic accidents by police officers. I could go on about the issues facing the police department as a result of the exodus of officers and the lack of experience in the ranks. One of the most telling numbers not talked about is that of the Police Officer One. Currently there are 252 POI's or one third of our uniformed officers providing police services. This is clearly an un-acceptable number and a recipe for disaster.

If you think it acceptable for a city the size of San Diego to have fewer than 120 uniformed police officers available from midnight to seven in the morning; 150 uniformed police officers available between five pm and midnight, patrolling your communities providing for your safety, you are living in the right city.


Anonymous said...

Crime is down? LOL...the reporting of crime is down. Here's an example. My son's car was broken into three weeks ago. He called the regular police non emergency number and was given an incident number and told to call another phone number to report the crime. To this date he has been unable to reach anyone at that number to report the crime. All he gets is the voice mail system. He has all but given up but I keep after him to keep trying. I suspect most citizens will continue to try and report, they'd just throw up their hands and give up rather that deal with the hassle of calling and calling without being able to get through. So next time when your Chief or the Mayor says crime is down, remember all the unreported crime cases.

Retired CHP John said...

I live in the Mira Mesa area. If anyone thinks crime is down they only need to drive the streets of Mira Mesa and look at the gang members hanging out on the streets and in the parks and at the various shopping centers. Sit anywhere in the area and time how long you sit there before seeing a police car. YOU WON'T SEE ONE!!!

My car, my neighbors car and several others in the area have all been broken into. I experienced the same as the prior poster in that I received an incident number and told to call a "Telephone Report Unit" to report my crime. I have left three messages and after two weeks no return call. When I went into the station in Penasquitos to report the loss of my stereo, CD's, sunglasses, telephone charging cord, jacket and hat along with a pair of old shoes, I was told I had to call the telephone report unit. Yes, crime is down. You can't report crime so it is down.

A disclaimer; I am a retired CHP officer and know the system also. I have many friends who work for SDPD and I hear all the same stories of reports not getting taken and how the administration hides the real numbers from the public.

Is it true sex crimes are up almost 20% but the chief says they are down? I understand the chief only reports male/female stranger rape and none of the other sex crimes. Is this true? That should be a crime.

I feel for SDPD officers. You have a lame chief and a pathetic mayor and citizens who do not get it. I am leaving San Diego the first of the year for this reason.

Good luck and be safe. I always appreciated the dedication, professionalism and expertise of those officers I had the pleasure of working beside.

Anonymous said...

I am currently a SDPD Officer and I am VERY concerned with the direction this city is taking the hard working Police Officers of this city. I am frustrated and do not blame the PD I blame the corrupt polititions that have run this city into the ground and continue to blame employees for the mess they created. SDPD is the best Police Department to work for City of San Diego is the worst city to work for. I currently expect the worst and hope for the best.

MAD AS HELL said...


Call your City Council member and demand immediate police response and documentation of your crime. Let them know that these excessive delays are unacceptable to you, a voting citizen and tax payer of the City of San Diego.

Mira Mesa, call Carl DeMaio! Demand that his office get back with you regarding this issue.

His office number is (619) 236-6655. Call today.

Tired said...

Sparky - once again you hit the nail on the head. We've known this for years now.. And our cries have fallen on deaf ears. I used to get exicted to talk about these #'s but no one care anymore - not the mayor, not the council, not even most citizens (with the exception of some north of 8). I'm exhausted of trying. I feel like we're all waiting for the whipping we know is coming next July like the slaves we are. If additional cuts are on the horizon - I'm outta here. I'm a second generation SDPD officer. My father and I have 47 years between us. Great people - terrible city. Sadly, I do believe its time to move on even though I just got promoted. I could understand if every other city was going through cuts year after year - but we all know its not the case. In fact some dept's are still giving raises. sigh

Anonymous said...

This entire situation is so unfortunate. The level of service provided to the community is pathetic.

At one time, San Diego PD was the premiere law enforcement agency. I would put it up against any agency anywhere. That was then, this is now.

San Diego PD is not the agency it use to be. All the senior officers and detectives that we aspired to be like are gone. The role models are no more. Mission critical specialized units have been gutted or disbanded. No more Special Investigations Unit or Fugitive Unit. No more RATT. Minimal CIU, NTF, VCTF, Traffic, etc. No more 11-86 deployments for long periods of time.

Today, SDPD is all smoke and mirrors. They robb Peter to pay Paul. If a staffing problem is recognized, the great body shuffle begins. This just leaves a void elsewhere. It’s all a grand illusion.

The outstanding leaders are gone. The Chiefs of today are not looked upon with respect. Chief Lansdowne is openly spoken of as a weak chief and just another political hack looking after himself and his job. Gone are the noble leaders, managers and supervisors, only to be replaced by insecure micro-managers. SDPD is governed by weak leaders. What about the Captain that practically sleeps with his police radio and directs activity from home! Wow! Can you say Micro-Manager!

The Detectives that we tried to emulate have all gone. Gone to other agencies who appreciate their dedication and commitment. Gone to agencies that fairly compensate them for a day’s work. Gone to agencies who have ethics and morals.

Nope, SDPD is not the agency it once was. The uniformed cops are good people. Too bad the leadership is weak and ineffective. You cannot do more with less. With more fiscal cutbacks, I see only bad times ahead for the citizens of San Diego. I do not see how SDPD can really survive additional cutbacks.

The politicians must have a strategy or plan. I just can’t figure it out at the moment. There is no room to cut anything from the SDPD budget. SDPD needs additional resources. SDPD needs to increase its patrol and investigative staffing to properly police this city. Los Angeles is working hard to reach their goal of 10,000 cops. SDPD is trying hard to cut their cops! I ask myself why? A JPA / Regionalization? Disband SDPD and form a regional police force? The Sheriff is not for that. Heaven help us. It is a sad day!

Anonymous said...

The problem with this article is that it is all insider baseball. _IF_ you are going to get change you have to stop focusing on what it feels like from the POA/SDPD perspective. ALOT more important is to provide evidence (qualitative/quantitative) about how the reduction in staffing are impacting CITIZENS. The theme throughout is that cuts alone won't solve the problem and that Sanders is negligent not to lead on the revenue side. But then it is all about the fate of EMPLOYEES. If you are going to get citizens/taxpayers to dig deeper than you have to argue what they are not getting now and what they could get if they stemed the bleeding/actually restored the city to a modicum of financial health. Otherwise it is just bitching.

Patrol Sergeant SDPD said...

Bitching? You're kidding right? How is providing real numbers and facts bitching?

"Qualitative/Quantitative" data is in the eye of the beholder. When a citizen is impacted from lack of response and action due to a lack of police they are impacted. The issue is more of who is impacted and how. When a citizen in Southeast is impacted few listen or care and who do they have to voice their issues? When a person north of I8 is impacted the city council and department jump and cover to appease and pacify.

Fact: the response to priority calls from citizens take officers 3-7 minutes longer to respond today than it did two years ago. Seconds count when it is you or your wife calling for help. Case in point the latest death in Rancho Bernardo. Check the response time for this call and the citizens would be demanding the chief and mayor's head.

Fact: there are fewer reports being taken by officers not because there are fewer crimes but the delay in responding have caused many citizens to refuse a report or call before the officer arrives to cancel the call. As noted in two prior replies the Telephone Report Unit is not capable of handling the volume of calls and citizens are again cancelling their calls and not making the reports which in turn gives the appearance of a lower crime rate.

Fact: there are fewer officers doing pro-active police work, thus fewer arrests are being made. Officers are going from call to call and simply putting band-aids on calls and not taking the time to solve the problem at hand. The result is the appearance of a lower crime rate and calls for service.

Fact: Citizens are not calling the police for petty crimes or crimes they view as not worth calling about thus the appearance is crime is down. There are more thefts, vandalism and petty crimes not being reported due to the apathy of citizens who no longer believe officers can do anything about their issue.

I share this blog with all of my friends and anyone who wants information on what is going on with the police department. Steve does more alone than anyone else to put out accurate and informative information. I for one appreciate the efforts and thank him for his vigilance.


The problem with this article is that it is all insider baseball. _IF_ you are going to get change you have to stop focusing on what it feels like from the POA/SDPD perspective. ALOT more important is to provide evidence (qualitative/quantitative) about how the reduction in staffing are impacting CITIZENS.

You are 100% correct in your statement. It is not how this impacts SDPD, but how it impacts the citizens, taxpayers and voters. This is the key in addressing the issue. Very specific examples and numbers need to be put forward and the public educated regarding the lack of police officer availability and how that makes the citizen more vulnerable to the criminal element. SDPD insiders see the negative impact of staffing on a daily basis. The real task is to educate and general public!

Anonymous said...

Screw the Citizens. Just like they let the Mayor and council screw me the past few years. I've been with the SDPD for over 20 yrs. I use to be very proud of it, and went out of my way to help folks. Like many I didnt always put in for overtime when I went 30-60 minutes over. I took extra time to explain things to people or help them. I even changed a few flat tires for folks while in uniform. The cuts have affected what took 20+ years to earn, Now gone because they didnt want to pay their bills. The citizens want minimum pay and benifits, then thats the service they get. The citizens dont care except when it affects them.

PD Blue thru and thru said...

I think what Steve is doing here as "Sparky" is his way of putting out factual information for others to share and help educate the public. I share this address with anyone who has questions about what is going on with the PD and the city.

I know others are trying to do the same but too few. We need more people to help get our message out.

Share this site address with citizens and get the message out.

Anonymous said...

How come they dont post gang violence on the news paper i know alot of fiends that have been shot or stabbed, none of them came out on the news paper. I know a friend that got stabbed at downtown chula vista park. The thing is he didnt want to snitch on the gang members because he didnt want to be green lighted