SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego has a problem with hiring police officers and keeping them on the job. It's a problem that city council is trying to better understand and fix.
"Officers are leaving the department at record levels and we're not hiring as many to keep up with that attrition," said District 8 Councilman David Alvarez. "It's really important we focus on compensating our police officers so we can remain competitive among law enforcement agencies."
Right now there are 239 vacancies out of 2,040 budgeted positions. That's up from 170 last October.
While crime in San Diego has remained low, Alvarez worries that could change if nothing is done to hire and retain police officers.
"You don't see an overnight change in crime, it happens little by little and it happens when you don't have resources to staff. That's what we want to prevent," said Alvarez.
On Friday, the council unanimously approved providing an additional $4 million to the department to help cover uniform and safety equipment costs.
According to Alvarez's office, that will mean a $1,505 stipend for every officer. Newer officers (not recruits) will get an extra $2,100.
"Our intent is to make sure that the officers know that we value them and that we care about them and that we want them to stay here in San Diego and that we want them to come work for San Diego."
While the department says it's a positive step, they want to see more done to recruit and retain the best around.
"I want to be very clear, as the Chief of Police I am very concerned. So what I am saying, and I've said this before, is that our police officers, right here in the City of San Diego at the San Diego Police Department, need to be the highest law enforcement paid professionals in our county and we will solve our recruitment and retention efforts."
Councilman Alvarez says figuring out how to pay officers more will be the next phase in their effort to fix the ongoing shortage.
Police Recruit $23.22/ hour - $48,000/ year
Police Officer I $26.04/ hour $54,000/ year to $28.59/ hour- $60,000/ year
Police Officer II $33.18/ hour $69,000/ year to $36.51/ hour $76,000/ year