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The Recruitment and Retention Crisis Continues

April 1, 2019
Tony Montoya - SFPOA President

How Recruitment and Retention of Police Officers Remains an Ongoing Challenge

In the October 2018 edition of the POA Journal, I wrote about the challenges facing most law enforcement agencies in our country surrounding the recruitment and retention crisis. In that article which is reprinted on page 9 of this edition, I highlighted the hard work being done by the SFPD to try and keep staffing levels up even though we are not at the mandated 1,971 available full duty police officers per the City Charter.

I also pointed out in that article that the city made a pledge in 2018 to hire 250 SFPD officers. The POA believes the City is certainly moving in the right direction but we also believe that they are falling far short of what is actually needed for effective and necessary policing in our City.

I am not a mathematician nor do I know how to analyze statistical data. My training and experience over the past 30 years has been in policing. Despite that, I can do the basic numbers as it pertains to staffing for potential officers entering the SFPD and the number of officers leaving the SFPD and it doesn’t add up in the favor of the City. After looking at new projection numbers and actual numbers for 2019, it does not look good right now.

Judge for yourself:

260th Academy Class
51 Entered the Academy
28 Graduated on October 12, 2018
24 completed FTO and are on probation
24 out of 51: Not Good

261st Academy Class
56 Entered the Academy
37 Graduated on February 8th, 2019
2 have recently departed and the field training has not yet concluded

262nd Academy Class
6 Lateral Officers and all completed FTO
Excellent but that is only 6

263rd Academy Class
51 Entered the Academy
33 remain in the academy
Set to graduate on May 24, 2019
33 out of 51 so far? Not good

264th Academy Class
42 Entered the Academy
31 still in the Academy
Set to graduate July 26,2019
Not bad but they’re only half way through the academy

265th Academy Class
Budgeted for 55 Recruits
Only 30 candidates were accepted
Set to start the Academy March 25, 2019
Not good at all

266th Academy Class
Unknown budgeted numbers
Unknown potential candidates
Start the Academy June 17, 2019 (Tentative)

The 267th and 268th Academy classes have been budgeted but have yet to be filled and chances are they will not have the number of recruits that are budgeted and necessary.

Now factor in the normal attrition rate from the SFPD which is between 65 and 70 officers annually. Now factor in that potentially 50 to 60 additional officers will retire prior to June 30, 2019, due to an earned benefit that has been set to sunset in the current MOU between the SFPOA and City. The benefit will sunset on June 30, 2019, so highly experienced and veteran officers will retire before that date rather than lose the benefit that they earned over their entire career. Not good at all.

During contract negotiations last-year the POA sounded the alarm and brought this crisis to the attention of the Department of Human Resources. We showed them the numbers and potential for additional officers to walk out the door. DHR’s response, “We’ve got 2,000 applicants waiting to join the SFPD.” As we told DHR then and what is still true today is the fact that 2,000 people filling out an application to be a SFPD officer does not equal 2,000 cops ready to hit the streets. It never has and it never will. We should not have been surprised that DHR put on their blinders. DHR is all about crunching the dollars during negotiations. They are not concerned about the safety of the residents and visitors of San Francisco.

The competition among law enforcement agencies to recruit qualified candidates and agencies poaching experienced officers from other police departments is at an all time high in our country. The SFPD has recruited candidates from as far away as New York but we still cannot reach our charter mandated number and that number was set in place over 25 years ago.

Clearly the scope of our work along with our responsibilities and the expectations set upon us have greatly increased since the mid 1990s. Quality of life issues, the opioid and homeless crisis, traffic nightmares, hundreds upon hundreds of scheduled and non-scheduled events and demonstrations, and the mental health crisis are stretching our resources to their limits. Therefore, unless the City and County of San Francisco takes this crisis seriously and unless they put tangible incentives and benefits on the table, to lure new officers to our great department and retain those already in our department, then our numbers will continue to dwindle.

What I wrote in the October issue still rings true.