San Diego Police Department

SDPD Staffing Crisis Also Impacting Top Leadership

These top leadership positions are not typically the officers who come out and take a report or patrol your streets

As the city searches for a new police chief, it's also in jeopardy of losing many in top leadership positions within the San Diego Police Department in the next few months.

These top leadership positions are not typically the officers who come out and take a report or patrol your streets.

These top cops are the people who mentor officers into detectives, teach sergeants how to be managers and set the standards for how information is communicated to the public, according to the POA President Brian Marvel.

"When you have a lot of the senior officers and senior leadership that are leaving, it's affecting the ability of our department to properly mentor and train the upcoming officers," Marvel said.

SDPD is down to 1,710 officers, according to Marvel. That's the lowest the number has been since 1989.

Chief Shelley Zimmerman appeared before the City Council recently to strongly encourage them to take action on the staffing shortfalls.

"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," Zimmerman told the council in August.

Marvel said the chronic police officer shortage could be addressed by making pay more comparable with other nearby agencies.

A nationwide search for a new police chief may be impacting morale, especially among top leaders in the organization who hoped to move up even more. Zimmerman is in the city's deferred retirement program, so she has to retire in March.

DROP allows officers to draw on their own retirement while remaining employed for five more years. It's a way for the city to keep top leadership a little longer but once the five years is up, they must retire.

Some 300 officers are in the same DROP program as Zimmerman, meaning they'll be gone within five years. Also, 600 officers remain eligible for DROP, which amounts to about 35 percent of the remaining police force.

The department recently lost two assistant chiefs, and the captain in charge of major investigations, like solving homicides, is set to retire in January.

The news is good for officers in the middle-level management, who are now able to very quickly move up the ranks but Marvel says it's not necessarily good for the department as a whole.

"It takes five years just to be a journeyman police officer, which means you can probably handle most incidents thrown at you," Marvel said. "But, someone who has been here 20 years, especially in high profile investigative assignments, that's invaluable."

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