The San Diego Police Department is in a heated battle to keep its newest recruits.
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"It is very competitive right now," said SDPD Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who oversees the training academy. "We're all vying for the very same best candidate."
The new class of recruits began Monday with 31. By Wednesday, one trainee had already dropped out. On average, a recruit class will lose 5 percent to 10 percent of its trainees during the six-month program.
It costs about $145,000 to train and equip a recruit during his or her first year. That's money that isn't returned if that recruit decides to sign on with a different department.
"We have already been notified by some of our potential candidates that they're no longer interested in coming into the San Diego Police Department," said Zimmerman. "They're actually going to accept job offers, a couple of them to the San Diego Sheriff's Department, and already a couple others to other law enforcement agencies."
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is offering signing bonuses to officers of up to $5,000, according to sources.
Zimmerman explained there's nothing the city can do if a recruit decides to take his training elsewhere. San Diego does not get reimbursed for the training if an officer candidate leaves once he's finished the program.
"It's just money walking out the door," Zimmerman admitted.
When asked why San Diego police does not require its recruits to stay with the department, Zimmerman said she's not aware of any law enforcement agencies in the area that enforces such a rule.
San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who heads the safety committee, was asked if anything was being done to retain the recruits San Diego police train.
"The solution lies in paying our police officers at least what other departments make," said Emerald, who noted that San Diego was once able to attract and retain officers because the police department had such good pay and benefits.
"This is a problem we brought on ourselves," she said.
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