In an effort to meet minimum patrol requirements, the short-staffed San Diego Police Department is now stretching resources even more.
Certain officers who are now focused solely on proactive community-based police work will be asked to jump in squad cars, turn on the sirens and spend more time responding to calls.
Officers, such as those in the Juvenile Services and Community Relations departments, who normally are tasked with proactive police work, such as talking to teenagers about the dangers of sexting, will soon be asked to spend one day a week on patrol.
“Remember an officer works a four day work week,” Lt. Brent Williams said. “So three days they'll still be out there doing their normal community function or juvenile services function, the one day a week in patrol function they'll just be out there answering calls and supplementing officers already working patrol."
Right now the department is officially 243 officers short, which means all uniformed officers not currently in patrol function are needed.
The severe staffing shortage — described by veteran officers as one of the worst they've ever seen — is forcing department heads to get creative.
“The chiefs are trying to make sure we can meet the need of the public in answering calls, so that's where we're at," Williams said.
Chief David Nisleit, still relatively new to the job, inherited the staffing challenges that can only be dealt with now by shifting resources and paying overtime.
Two police academies now underway with nearly 100 recruits offer optimism for the future but it’s the thriving economy that is the primary reason for the current shortage, Williams said. “
“The economy is good, a lot of jobs out there, so there's a lot of choices," he said.
For years now SDPD has been trying to find recruits through traditional means, such as banners and posters.
Part of the long-term strategy in bringing down attrition rates now includes hiring a marketing company to bring their message in a brand new direction. The first ads from the campaign in will start appearing in the coming weeks.