SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Dwindling staff numbers have forced the San Jose Police Department to require overtime for its officers under a shift change starting this Sunday.
The department has 188 vacancies, but there are 839 officers only available to patrol the streets due to others who are either on leave for disability, training and other reasons, police Chief Eddie Garcia said.READ MORE: Driver Arrested Following Deadly Sonoma County Crash Sunday
San Jose police are allowed to have up to 1,109 officers, but even if they reached that number they would still be considered the least-staffed department compared to other major cities nationwide, Garcia said.
In response to the deficiency, the department will have to fill 252 10-hour shifts on an overtime basis beginning on Sunday to meet minimum staffing levels for a city of more than 1 million residents, according to Garcia.
Garcia made the announcement during a news conference Thursday at police headquarters with Mayor Sam Liccardo, City Manager Norberto Duenas, Independent Police Auditor Walter Katz, city council members Chappie Jones, Raul Peralez and Don Rocha, and leaders of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.
The department is working with the POA on mandatory overtime for every officer regardless of what bureau they work in, Garcia said.
With more officers on patrol, fewer investigators will be available to look into crimes, the chief said.
Patrol staff should have more than 550 officers, but there are 63 unfilled spots, Garcia said.
The reductions have in part been due to departures in response to pension reform Measure B, which makes the department’s retirement package less competitive among other agencies, according to Garcia.
The city and its bargaining units reached a settlement agreement late last year over Measure B, passed by voters in 2012, which would’ve increased employee contributions to their pension plans, among other changes.
Under the agreement, the Santa Clara County Superior Court has to rule whether Measure B can be invalidated for the benefits under the settlement on pension and retirement plans.
City and union officials are supportive of supplanting Measure B with the “hard fought settlement” that will help save $3 billion over the next 30 years to help them move forward and help rebuild the police department, Liccardo said.READ MORE: 49ers Get It Done in Dallas and The Faithful Rejoice
City leaders and bargaining units are also working on ballot language for the November ballot that will be presented to voters, who will decide if the settlement framework is sufficient to replace Measure B regardless of the court’s decision, Liccardo said.
If approved, the settlement would stop the City Council from increasing employee benefits unless it receives approval from the voters, according to Liccardo.
There is a sense of “cautious optimism” within the department since the settlement agreement was reached, Garcia said.
“We can’t let that hope diminish,” Garcia said.
A survey conducted a month ago of the POA’s members indicates more than 30 percent of officers have considered resigning from the department, leaving for other agencies or early retirement due to the lack of stability in the department, union Vice President James Gonzales said.
Response times for Priority Two calls are more than 20 minutes and there are only seven people in the department’s current police academy, Gonzales said.
Priority Two calls refer to emergencies that don’t pose an immediate threat to life but the suspect may be in the area, police said.
The department is still weighing its options on whether to continue running the academy or forwarding them to other academies, Garcia said.
The drawbacks of not having the San Jose-specific academy is that the recruits may not receive procedural justice or implicit bias training, according to Garcia.
“We are being asked to patrol when exhausted, respond to calls when fatigued and hope that there are enough officers on any given shift to back each other up,” POA President Paul Kelly said.
“We run from call to call and have no time to interact with the community or try to do any type of proactive policing,” Kelly said.MORE NEWS: San Francisco Gym's Separation Strategy Fits Well With COVID-Era Concerns
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