City leaders tried to address San Diego's worsening police officer shortage Friday with a uniform and equipment stipend.
So far, crime rates have not been impacted by the staffing crisis, but the police chief told the council, she is concerned.
"Our crime rate is remarkably low considering the number of police officers that we have, but these are critical staffing numbers right now. And we have to do something right here, right now," said San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.
The department is short about 250 cops with just a couple less than 1800 now on the job and 2,040 budgeted positions. Within the next five years, 600 officers are eligible to retire.
Friday, the City Council approved an extra $4 million for additional stipends for officers for uniforms and equipment.
The money works out to an extra $2,100 uniform stipend for officers with less than eight years with the department. They also approved an additional $1,500 in uniform and equipment stipend for all officers, boosting the annual stipend from $900 to $2,400 a year for all officers.
City officials seemed to be in consensus that the only long-term solution is significant pay hikes for San Diego police (SDPD), who are among the lowest paid in the county.
The number of applicants is down by 36 percent. However, the department rejects about 95 percent of its applicants for one reason or another.
Of the more than 4,000 applicants SDPD receives each year on average, only about 100 are hired on as officers.
SDPD leadership says that’s about making sure only highly qualified candidates become officers.
"You have to remember, we're empowering people to make some pretty heavy decisions within the community, up to and including lethal force, if necessary," Lt. Michael Swanson told NBC7 in May. "So, we only want to have the 'best of the best' with that kind of authority."