SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Mayor Todd Gloria highlighted public safety investments Thursday in his proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, including an increase of $13.8 million for the San Diego Police Department.
His "Ready to Rebuild" budget proposes to fund the San Diego Police Department with $584 million to support personnel, equipment and facilities and includes an additional $5.5 million for overtime.
"The number-one expectation San Diegans have of their city leadership is that we're working to keep them safe, and that means having people in place to respond quickly and effectively when they call for help," Gloria said at an event Thursday in Belmont Park. "I've been clear: lawlessness will not rule the day in our city -- and this budget reflects that.
"We are investing in the brave men and women who serve our city and ensures they have the proper equipment and facilities for operations and training to do their jobs effectively," he said.
The proposed budget anticipates pay increases likely to result from contract negotiations under way now with the bargaining units representing police, firefighters and lifeguards.
It also provides for recruitment and retention for SDPD. According to city documents, staffing at the department is higher than eight of the past nine years but, the department is trying to fill 200 remaining vacancies in order to achieve full staffing.
A purported rise in violent crime has spurred calls by some residents for reassurance that city leaders are committing sufficient resources to patrolling and emergency response, Gloria's office claims. The San Diego Police Officers Association said earlier this week rising violent crime is especially prevalent in parks -- citing 12 murders in the city's parks over the last year.
"This tragic trend should come as no surprise," a statement from the SDPOA read. "The San Diego Police Department response times have more than doubled for priority-one and -two calls over the last five years. Similarly, the staffing for patrol operations is critically low and more than 190 officers have departed the SDPD since July 2021."
Many of those officers who left SDPD cited a COVID-19 vaccine mandate as the reason -- a mandate which Gloria backed down on, allowing hundreds of exceptions. The SDPOA instead pointed to Council President Pro Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe, who chairs the council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, as wanting to divert funding from the police.
Montgomery Steppe issued a quick response regarding what she describes as an inequitable distribution of resources as the problem, not lack of officers.
"First, it is imperative to recognize it is no coincidence that the communities with high investment in quality resources share the lowest crime rates within our city," she said. "Inequality perpetuates violence. Poverty perpetuates violence. Disinvestment perpetuates violence. There is a pattern of disregard for communities South of the 8, which has undoubtedly contributed to the cycle of violence in the city.
"The SDPOA's ignorance to the compound deprivation of these communities, which they have taken an oath to serve and protect, exacerbates our current dilemma of growing violence in our city," she said.
In 2021, Gloria's budget saw a $23 million increase to the San Diego Police Department. The city has increased the SDPD's budget for the last 10 years, an increase of more than $213 million since 2011.
For the Fire-Rescue Department, the proposed budget adds two marine safety lieutenants to ensure 24-hour response and emergency management operations in the coastal area as well as facilities needs, including funding environmental work required in order to build the Fairmont Avenue and Skyline Hills fire stations, replacing the lifeguard division's 40-year-old boating safety unit locker room and replacing a lifeguard tower.
"Protecting the residents of San Diego is our number-one priority as elected officials," said Councilman Raul Campillo, who represents Council District 7 and sits on the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. "It's imperative that we continue to invest in our police, firefighters, EMS workers and lifeguards to keep public safety in the forefront.
"The mayor understands this well and the proposed budget reflects this," he said. "As we listen to the public over the next several weeks and receive more data on revenue, I look to bolster it even further."
Also at the event were community members like Timothy McClure.
While he agrees with funding public safety departments, McClure said he believes community-based groups helping to protect neighborhoods need more support too.
"There's a lot of organizations out here that are dealing with gun violence prevention and things like that. They should be funded," McClure said.