Mar 1, 2024 - News

Audit: SDPD overtime risks public safety

Photo illustration of a San Diego Police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The San Diego Police Department should require officers to take eight-hour breaks between shifts and consider an overtime limit, per a new city audit.

Why it matters: Excessive overtime causes fatigue that increases officers' risk of death, reduces their ability to measure consequences, and is comparable to being drunk, the report concludes.

State of play: Frustrated that SDPD exceeded its overtime budget again last year, some City Council members requested the audit.

By the numbers: SDPD has overspent on overtime in 10 of the last 11 years.

  • The department's overtime expenses have increased from $31.9 million in 2019 to $50.8 million this year.

Yes, but: The percentage of SDPD spending on overtime was smaller than that of other large California city police departments.

  • It accounted for 6.8% of SDPD's overall spending in 2022, compared to Los Angeles (10.8% of overall police spending was on overtime), Oakland (10.2%) and San Francisco (8.2%).

The big picture: SDPD's reliance on overtime has coincided with its yearslong staffing crisis, as the city struggles to recruit and retain enough officers to maintain target response times for emergency calls.

Zoom in: SDPD overtime has generally increased alongside officer vacancies, the audit says, reinforcing that officers work longer hours to compensate for staffing problems.

  • Although SDPD is meeting its response time goal for calls that "involve imminent threat to life," they aren't close to their goals for any other type of call, and response times have continued to increase despite the additional overtime hours, "meaning overtime alone is unlikely to meet SDPD's needs," according to the city auditor's office.
  • SDPD aims to respond to the next-most severe category — calls involving "serious crimes in progress or a threat to life" — within 14 minutes, but the actual average time is 33 minutes.

The audit recommends using civilian positions for certain calls to improve performance.

  • SDPD management agreed with that, as well as all of the audit's other recommendations.

What we're watching: Mayor Todd Gloria will release his draft budget for the new year in April, and officials are already gripping for a difficult discussion amid a projected $167 million deficit.

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