SAN JOSE (BCN)—San Jose is struggling to fill patrol shifts with its dwindling workforce at the Police Department, which may lead the city to declare a public safety state of emergency.
Representatives from the city, Police Department and San Jose Police Officers’ Association met Monday afternoon when they discussed a call to reassign officers to sufficiently cover patrol shifts, city spokesman David Vossbrink said.
The City Council also talked about the issue during its closed session this morning on labor relations, Vossbrink said.
The meeting was called for in a letter on police staffing issues sent last Wednesday by city employee relations director Jennifer Schembri to union president Paul Kelly.
The department needs at least 500 officers in the patrol division to serve the city, but it only has 413 officers available to fill the shifts, Schembri wrote.
The department has also found that 47 officers have to be reassigned from other assignments to patrol, according to Schembri.
Currently, the department has 348 10-hour vacant shifts on a weekly basis despite officers working required overtime, union spokesman Tom Saggau said.
Police Chief Eddie Garcia had announced mandatory overtime for officers during a news conference in March, when he said there were 252 10-hour shifts that needed to be filled.
Garcia, Schembri, City Manager Norberto Duenas and POA officials were among the officials at Monday’s meeting that Saggau said was productive.
“Everyone recognizes this is a crisis and in crisis situations we need leadership,” Saggau said.
Officers’ safety is at risk when they work back-to-back shifts and it also puts the community in danger, Saggau said.
To address the gap of 87 officers, the department will have to move detectives to patrol, but Garcia can only do that if the City Council declares a public safety state of emergency, Saggau said.
If the declaration is made, the chief will be allowed to make unilateral changes for the department that he currently can’t make under the union’s contract with the city, according to Saggau.
The staffing shortages are in part due to Measure B passed by San Jose voters in 2012 that led many officers to leave over changes to their pension and retirement plans that was less competitive compared to other departments.
The city and its unions reached a settlement to replace Measure B late last year and are presenting their agreement to voters for approval in November as Measure F.
The settlement framework is expected to save the city $3 billion over the next 30 years and makes changes to Measure B including stopping the City Council from giving employees more benefits unless voters approve it, according to city officials.
“We’ve got to fix a serious police staffing shortage, and if the chief tells me he needs this declaration to help him fix it in the short run, we’ll do it,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement Monday.
“This also underscores why we need to pass Measure F in November and restore our ability to hire more police officers,” Liccardo said.