This is an open letter to the mayor of San Diego. We are now 4 days into the new fiscal year and with this come serious concerns that are being ignored by the mayor and council. The citizens are oblivious to the crisis facing law enforcement and the dangers they now face. Who is going to stand up and demand something be done? What will it take for people to get involved and refuse to accept this as OK? Let me first provide the background information from which I draw my beliefs to make the statements about Public Safety.
The City of San Diego is now the 9th largest city in America. We are 600 people shy of the 8th largest city; Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Police Department is staffed with 2,977 sworn officers and 556 civilian support staff (Does not include Communication Staff). The San Diego Police Department is staffed with 1,852 sworn officers (163 unavailable due to injury leave, military leave or other reasons) and 650 civilian support staff (Included Communication Staff). This leaves the San Diego Police Department with 1,689 sworn officers available for service. Of this number, 59 are managers (Lieutenants, Captains, and Chiefs) and not answering radio calls or investigating crime; 50 are recruits and still in training; with an additional 51 still in the academy; this leaves 1,529 sworn police officers, detectives, sergeants and detective sergeants to handle police related calls for service and investigations. If you delete the 80 detective sergeants and 280 detectives from this number, you have 1,169 uniformed officers to patrol the streets of San Diego, from San Ysidro to the Wild Animal Park. The Police Department has a budgeted strength of 2,127 sworn officers. At the current rate of attrition and the inability to certify candidates for the academy; the police department will never meet full staffing.
The San Diego Police Department has lost 252 sworn members of the department in the past 12 months. We have lost 2 Assistant Chiefs, 2 Captains, 7 Lieutenants, 27 Detective Sergeants, 24 Patrol Sergeants, 3 Agents, 49 Detectives, 79 Police Officer II's, 34 Police Officer I's, and 25 Recruits. This equates to approximately 21 officers per month leaving for various reasons. The combined police experience lost exceeds 4,000 years service to the Citizens of San Diego. There are currently 51 recruits in the Police Academy with an additional 41 (Budgeted for 50 recruits, but unable to find the additional 9 qualified candidates) starting on the 20th of July. (The original post indicated the October Academy was cancelled. Chief Kanaski corrected this item and said the department is working to fill the October class with 50 recruits)
The taxpaying citizens, visitors, and workers of this community have a right to know the reality of Public Safety in this City. They have a right to know the state of their police department and how we got to the point we are at. They have a right to know we will soon be incapable of meeting their requests for service. They have a right to know the level of REAL staffing on the streets of San Diego during the nighttime hours after midnight. They have a right to know we are doing everything humanly possible to meet the calls for service; but the days of "doing more with less" have reached the breaking point.
Mr. mayor; would you please share with the taxpaying citizen your reasons for decimating a once great police department and forcing its most experienced, senior police officers and leaders to leave; many before they were ready or wanting to? Would you share your reasons for imposing an unacceptable contract upon the police officers of this City that included reductions and cuts to wages and benefits NONE of the other workers of this City were subjected to? Would you explain to the taxpayers why you have eliminated the funding for the next academy class of recruits? Would you explain the difference between your receiving your Retirement payments from SDCERS and salary and benefits as mayor and those officers who are participants of the DROP program?
The San Diego Police Department will prioritize all calls for service from citizens as they are received. With the lack of staffing, the Police Department will be forced to STOP responding to the "Quality of Life" issues citizens call seeking help with; trespassing; panhandling; illegal lodging; drunks on the sidewalk, in parks and buildings; loud music; barking dog; illegal parking; juvenile neighborhood problems; loud party; vandalism; graffiti; urinating in public and similar types of requests. What do you say to these people mayor, who want to know why we are not meeting their requests to provide safe, secure and livable neighborhoods?
When you were Chief of this police department, you boasted of the "Community Orientated Policing" and "Problem Orientated Policing" programs you put in place, to better serve the community. You increased the supervisor ranks to almost double what it was before you took over; to have what you called, "Closer Supervision" of officers and reduce the "Span of Control" for supervisors. What is different today and why is "Community Orientated Policing" and "Problem Orientated Policing" not important? Please do not insult us and the community and tell us these programs are still important and will continue. Who is going to do these tasks and when? Answering priority calls for service will be our only option due to staffing levels created by you and your policies.
Mr. mayor; please tell us what you will say to the family of that energetic new rookie officer killed in the line of duty because he lacked experienced mentors and supervisors to guide him in his learning process? What will you say to the family of the Detective killed in the line of duty; working excessive hours; did not have a cover unit to assist him; when confronted by an armed, repeat offender? Please tell us what you will say to the family of the child killed in the park because officers could not respond to their calls for help in a timely manner?
You have created a crisis never before seen in ANY American City. It is time mayor, you stop playing a game you know nothing about; POLITICS. It is time you start acting in the best interest of this City; its citizens; visitors and workers; employees and retirees alike. It is time you set priorities that make sense. Public Safety is the number one priority of every citizen and it should be yours. STOP PLAYING POLITICS and sit down with the City Council and formulate a plan to add 500 police officers in the next 36 months. Do not tell us you can't. CAN'T means you are not willing. You, like any of us, can do anything we set our minds to. Set aside the money necessary to hire and retain these officers NOW. It can be done and must be done now. To wait one day will further place citizens and officers in jeopardy unnecessarily. Start double sessions or double or triple sections in the Academy with 75-100 recruits per class. It has been done before and it MUST be done NOW.
If you are a citizen in the community and were not aware of this crisis; it is real and it is now. This is not a scare tactic or ploy for additional money. FREEZE my salary for the next two years; BUT we must hire and train 500 additional officers if we are going to provide the public safety services you want and need. To do anything less will leave you and the police officers who provide for your safety in danger.