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San Diego police overtime budget over $7M, city council looks for solutions

Posted at 5:18 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 20:18:56-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The city of San Diego's Budget Committee approved an item to be heard at a later date by the city council. The item asks the council to be able to move savings from other city departments to help offset costs accrued by departments like the police department.

The police department going over budget is a trend that the San Diego Police Officers Association said is typical as seen in years past. However, this year is different.

There are more factors like more officers on overtime because of increased staffing shortages, lack of retention and a rise in violent crime.

"I came on in 1998, and we had 200 more officers then than we do today," shared Chief David Nisleit during Wednesday's meeting. "It is something that is concerning to us."

Currently, SDPD's staff is at 1,888 people, with four people leaving this week. That means the department is about 150 officers short. The majority of vacancies have been attributed to better compensation elsewhere. Some have been attributed to vaccine mandates.

"A good year we could see an increase of attrition to hiring of about 40 to 50 sworn officers a year. This year we will definitely be going in the negative," explained Chief Nisleit.

The department's staffing shortage is what has caused more overtime. The council projected overtime funds to be over $6.9 million by the end of this fiscal year.

"It's not lost on me that if we want to get to full staffing," Councilmember Chris Cate, District 6, said. "It's going to take 10 of millions of dollars to do that."

The police department said that officers on duty have had to stay on shift due to violent crime calls or back-filling of positions.

Chief Nisleit said that the overnight shift alone has failed to meet minimum staffing levels 70% of the time.

It's statistics like these, Jared Wilson, the President of the San Diego Police Officers Association, hopes changes soon.

"Officers are overworked. They need additional resources and more cops on the street," he said. "We need to do more to recruit and retain our people; compensation is a huge factor in that."

During their meeting, the committee unanimously approved the motion of moving vacancy savings from other departments to both the police and fire department. Vacancy savings are the savings a department has because they do not have employees.

Chief Nisleit hopes to bring in experienced officers from other departments by incentivizing them with bonuses.

"We are not going to be able to recruit our way out of this mess," Councilmember Cate said.

All in Wednesday's meeting know that these ideas are a step in the right direction, but long-term solutions are still needed. Councilmembers did spitball ideas, ranging from increasing stormwater fees or having tourists pay for public parking.

This motion still needs to be heard by city council for discussion and final approval. The date has not been decided as of yet.

Other items discussed during Wednesday's meeting were that without the use of dollars the city still has from the American Rescue Plan, San Diego would need to accrue $123 million in revenue for all city services.

The chief stated in the meeting that the department gets roughly 13,000 calls a day. Wilson said the number one complaint from citizens regards homelessness, which is dealt with by the Neighborhood Policing Division.

Just last month, the chief shared the department lost 50 officers. That puts the department at an attrition rate of 20, where they are typically at 12-13. There are currently 80 vacancies for civilian positions, and roughly 37 officers have currently filed paperwork to work at another local agency.

The department has seen a dip in applications, roughly at 25%. There is an academy of 50 officers in training. Chief Nisleit said they are the most diverse group of applicants.

Currently, SDPD is at 1.2 officers per thousand. The chief clarified that the statistic is under the impression that they are fully staffed. He said the goal is to get to over 2,000 officers.