An article in the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE details the hiring and retention problems of my San Diego city police department. These problems ARE real, but explainable — and solvable. SDPD hasn’t had a pay raise since 2009. The officers are still well paid, but LOWER paid than just about any other police department in the region. Supply and demand is indeed the PRIMARY problem the city faces. But not the only problem.
What first annoyed me about this story is that the reporter seeks insights from a police “expert”– a guy from some flakey outfit that I suspect is funded by the police labor unions. Their board of directors are ALL police chiefs or police commissioners — hardly a reliable source of objective information. This guy makes a false claim about how police work has suddenly become quite risky compared to previous years. The paper says he asserts that “large numbers of officers are being killed in the line of duty.”
Based on the last FULL year (2016), the number of deaths IS higher. His comment seems to indicate that the number of police deaths across the nation SOARED in 2016. Those deaths rose to 143 officers. The previous year it was 137, The year before that — 136. “Soared”? You be the judge.
But more important, look at the national police fatality record for the last TEN years. Ten years ago 202 police officers died on the job. The annual number of police officer deaths has been trending down for decades. And keep in mind that the NUMBER of police officers nationwide has been INCREASING annually.
FACTS and FIGURES
Causes of Law Enforcement Deaths
Over the Past Decade (2007-2016)
|Struck by Falling Object||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Struck by Train||0||1||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Struck by Vehicle||14||18||11||13||10||14||12||10||10||15||127|
|Female Officers Killed||8||15||3||8||11||12||5||6||13||6||87|
|Officers Killed Wearing Body Armor||71%||62%||67%||64%||63%||51%||49%||67%||56%||64%|
Updated April 10, 2017
This improving police mortality trend has been happening since 1975. Below is a chart of police fatalities since 1956. The number of annual deaths peaked in 1975 at about 280 police officers. With some variation, the number of deaths have been trending downward ever since. The upward spike in 2001 was doubtless because of 9/11. And again, let me remind readers that over this timeframe the NUMBER of police officers EMPLOYED increased substantially, so the mortality risk has actually dropped faster than this chart indicates.
The U-T article DOES bring up a good point: SDPD bemoans their lack of applicants, but in one crucial area the city bureaucrats and police chief don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to solve the problem. They are ignoring one obvious solution that works elsewhere: Allow people to apply for jobs online,
The Austin Police Department put its 37-page application online and got such a huge response that it actually bogged down the rest of its hiring process. Austin police Sgt. Matthew Fortes said his agency used to receive 1,000 applications a year, but after the department put the process online in December, it got 1,500 in four months.
Wahl said San Diego has been streamlining, too, and now it can take as little as three months to get hired, instead of up to two years. The department put more detectives in the unit that runs background checks, and began making conditional job offers before the required medical evaluation was finished.
San Diego has not gone to online applications, but is looking into it. “We have to look at the entire process,” said Wahl. [bold print added]
Say WHAT??? We’ve had a recruiting problem for YEARS, so only NOW SDPD is “looking into” a process that Austin found FLOODED them with applicants??? I know middle school kids who could put the SDPD employment application online as an interactive document.
I don’t know why the city council allows such incompetence to rule the police department. While the salary and benefit shortfall will indeed cost us a boodle, the cost of increasing the number of applicants is slightly above zero.
One other point. Unlike a number of other police departments, SDPD has a months-long training program during which the police cadet receives a free law enforcement education AND EARNS A SALARY. Other police departments try to hire applicants who have already gone through much of such training via a community college — with a much shorter additional training process once the new recruit is hired as a cop.
After an SDPD student graduates from the SDPD academy, the students are under ZERO obligation to work for the SDPD! There is no financial penalty (and substantial financial reward) for using one’s SDPD police academy training to be immediately hired by another city or county. This is madness!!
IF such free cadet academy training AND salary are both deemed necessary (which I question), have the cadet sign for a student loan to largely cover his training costs. It would be a ZERO interest, ZERO payment loan — a loan that is annually forgiven pro rata over a 10 year period in which they serve as a cop in the SDPD. If the student leaves — the loan balance becomes due and payable in 90 days.