TrueStatement: San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies will “be making $93,000 for a top-step deputy, nearly $18,000 more than us or 20-plus percent. That’s what you’re competing with,” San Diego Police Officers Association Vice President Jeff Jordon said at a Sept. 18 City Council committee meeting.

Determination: True

Analysis: San Diego’s police union is doubling down on arguments that officers need pay raises amid reports that turnover is on the rise.

Union leaders claim better-paying law enforcement agencies are attracting San Diego officers and that the trend will only worsen if the City Council doesn’t increase police salaries.

San Diego Police Officers Association Vice President Jeff Jordon claimed at a City Council subcommittee meeting last week that the County Sheriff’s Department is a particular draw for city cops. Jordon says that by 2017, the sheriff’s office will eventually pay seasoned deputies nearly $18,000 more than the city pays its experienced officers.

That’s true.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Per the city’s latest pay guidelines, San Diego police officers make a base salary of about $75,940 after four years on the job. This figure doesn’t include benefits and hasn’t shifted for years. This is partly due to pension reform initiative San Diego voters approved in 2012 that ushered in freezes on city workers’ pensionable pay.

About 900 San Diego officers – almost half the police force – are currently at this pay level. If they want to make more in base pay, officers must be promoted.

That doesn’t mean the city hasn’t tried some creative measures to boost how much money officers take home without straight salary hikes. Last year, the City Council gave officers an extra $900 to offset spending on uniforms. This year, it’s increased overtime pay.

For this fact check, we’re only focusing on base pay since that’s what Jordon was referring to. But taking into account other kinds of pay hikes would be essential to understanding the compensation packages offered by the San Diego Police Department and other police agencies.

Jordon argues experienced officers are likely to be lured away by other agencies if the City Council doesn’t dole out raises in base pay. He contends the Sheriff’s Department poses an especially potent threat.

San Diego County supervisors approved a new contract with the deputy sheriff’s union earlier this year that’s been couched as an 8 percent pay hike over four years.

Veteran sheriff’s deputies will see larger raises than less-experienced ones though all are set to get at least an 8 percent raise.

Let’s start with a look at what first-year officers make at both agencies, and what sheriff’s deputies will make after their raises kick in.

These numbers are fairly similar, though new sheriff’s deputies make more.


And here’s a look at officers with more experience.

Now, San Diego cops with four years on the job are actually making more than sheriff’s deputies with 4.5 years of experience. That will change by 2017.


Finally, let’s look at what Jordon was focused on: pay for San Diego’s more senior officers compared with top-level base pay for sheriff’s deputies. This compares cops with more than 8.5 years on the job.


Seasoned sheriff’s deputies are already making almost $5,700 more than San Diego officers with the same level of experience. The gulf will grow to more than $17,300 by June 2017 unless the city makes changes.

San Diego officers with at least 8.5 years of experience are set to make about 23 percent less than county sheriff’s deputies with the same number of years on the job. Both numbers match up with Jordon’s claim that experienced sheriff’s deputies will be making nearly $18,000 more than veteran San Diego officers by 2017. This makes his statement true.

This is significant because a San Diego officer’s experience at the city Police Department applies if he or she takes a job at the Sheriff’s Department. So-called lateral officers who join the sheriff’s department are paid based on their overall experience.

Sheriff’s Department newcomers with experience elsewhere also receive $5,000 hiring bonuses that are paid out over four and a half years, an added financial incentive for San Diego officers to seek jobs there.

The city’s set to learn more about how San Diego officers’ pay compares with other California police agencies in a survey it commission that will be released next month.

It’s been described as a total compensation study, a document that would ostensibly detail how San Diego officers’ health care benefits, specialty pay tied to particular assignments and base salaries, among other elements.

This fact check focuses on officers’ base salaries but a comprehensive review is necessary to provide a full picture of how compensation compares at the Sheriff’s Department and the Police Department.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

    This article relates to: Fact Check, News, Police, Police Retention, Share

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about San Diego city and county governments. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

    Al Rodbell
    Al Rodbell subscriber

    There is a danger in excessive lowering of Police salaries, described in the book, Divide, American Injustice in the age of the Wealth Gap, by Matt Taibbi.  N.Y.C. dramatically lowered pay a few decades ago, and the effect was an increase of citations for trivial violations.  There were mostly directed at the poorest people with few resources to combat these excesses.  Littering, blocking pedestrian traffic, and other nonsense required their appearance in court, building up overtime.

    We would never want this unintended consequence from unrealistic lowing of salaries. The firefighter overtime issue must be addressed, as the real crunch will occur not from the salaries but the long pensions from an early retirement age.  In Encinitas there was an attempt to combine the EMS and firefighters, since fires are a decreasing number of calls.  EMTs work for less than half of a firefighters full compensation so they closed down that proposal quickly. 

    LA recently exposed a scandal that most Fire recruits were family of existing members, meaning the job is such a plumb one that the demand for the jobs would lower the pay dramatically.   

    DavidM subscriber

    @Al Rodbell  Except no one is talking about lowering salaries, and the police academy has a waiting list of applicants year after year. 

    People become cops, first and foremost, because they admire the prospect of public service.  Then the union and the veteran officers convince them its about salary, overtime, and pension.  All of these are extremely generous when compared to private sector employment, but of course no public sector employee thinks it's enough.

    obboy13 subscriber

    Lisa, what am I missing here, or is this the worst excuse for a fact check ever?  Distilled to its basic argument, this piece says The POA says there's a wide gulf between their salaries and those of Deputy Sheriffs; and I (Lisa Halverstadt) believe them because they told me so and gave me their statistics to buttress their argument.  However, since the POA has yet to agree to a salary level for 2017 this comparison is at present mere speculation.  You might just as easily compare Deputy salaries of 2010 with SDPD salaries of 2014.  Also, salaries by themselves is only part of the equation.  Do you think it's within the realm of possibility that if the benefits for Deputies are better than or equal to those of Police Officers the POA would have given you that information too?

    The current County Salary Schedule lists the top salary for a deputy sheriff at $81,659.50.  For your ease of reference here's a link:

    The base salary doesn't rise to your figure of $93,262 for another three years.  That's because the Deputy Sheriffs Association agreed to a multi-year contract, while the POA has yet to negotiate for raises through 2017 (except of course for the public statements they're making with your help.)  Stop being a dupe for the POA, and let the negotiation process between them and the City happen as it should at the bargaining table.  They're really pretty good at getting the most out of the City.  Can you spell DROP Program?  

    Oh yeah, while you're at it you might want to reconsider when running a fact check to also get the other side of the argument i.e. from the City, before rushing off to judgement and proclaiming yourself the keeper of the facts.  Either that or change the name to Naive or Incomplete Fact Check.

    I for one expect better from VOSD.

    obboy13 subscriber

    @Jake Resch Two points Jake: 1. cost neutral as it may have been, DROP was a huge benefit to the officers and a coup for the POA bargaining team.  It was only cited as illustrative that the POA really knows how to win at negotiations.  2. This fact check is in my opinion still an apples to oranges comparison because of the two separate time periods, amd therefore misleading.  If you believe there will be no new negotiations before 2017...we disagree.  I happen to believe the POA's current campaign will get the City to the table, and if it does more power to them.  I just don't care for VOSD being a part of the "sky is falling" hype leading up to the bargaining.  Report it for what it is i.e. public posturing by the police union.  

    Jake Resch
    Jake Resch subscriber

    Actually the POA has technically agreed to salary levels through June 2018. Thanks to prop B, there will be no pensionable pay raises. When prop B was put into play, the POA also entered a contract with the city, laying out what any increases to pay and benefits will be for this time period. So, the negotiations with the city have already happened. Also, DROP (even though it was found to be cost neutral) is no longer an opinion for new highers after 2005.

    So before calling out the fact checker, you might want to have your own facts in line.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    The County can pay more because it's deputy sheriffs don't keep getting caught molesting victims and thereby avoids multi-million dollar settlements like this one. If the city has to keep coughing up millions for city cops misbehavior, the other cops in the department shouldn't expect to get raises, until they start policing their own ranks.

    hkahn117 subscriber

    I find it ironic that the city council is ok with forcing businesses to pay higher wages to non-skilled workers yet the council won't offer fair wages to their own police force. Shameful.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Kahn: While I agree in principle, it is the voters who approved the pay freeze. The majority who voted for this own the problem. This is one of the outcomes of direct democracy.

    DavidM subscriber

    @hkahn117  Maybe it depends on your definition of "fair."  A starting cop will make more than $30 per hour (not counting overtime, holiday multipliers, etc.), and the city council wants low level public sector employees paid less than half of that.

    DavidM subscriber

    @hkahn117 I'm not making that comparison at all; you did.  Unless you think an increase in the minimum wage should immediately transfer into an increase for higher wage employment, the two should never be compared in the first place.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    As this fact check demonstrates, the proponents of Proposition B imagined a reality that is rapidly proving false. That fantasy was fueled by an actuary named Cheiron which surmised that if city employee wages were “frozen” for five years, the effects of the freeze would last for another 25 years. That is, wages would be depressed by that amount for the entire period. The police salary freeze is demonstrating the absurdity of the concept that it is possible to defy economics in the public sector.

    The reality is that we exist in a supply and demand economy and that there is, in normal times, competition for good quality labor. Not only does freezing wages create serious morale problems, as is clearly happening in the police force, but it also means you can only hire those who have been rejected by other similar employers. Do we really want to have the cheapest police force and are we prepared to accept a commensurate level of service. You get what you pay for, no matter how much you may want to live on the cheap. Carl DeMaio and Jerry Sanders sold the populace a bill of goods.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster  Wait a minute here, “Mister” Brewster.  Let’s not jump from a problem in a particular job category to the assumption that city employees in general are underpaid according to your version of the “labor market” .

    Let’s talk about cops and firefighters.  The firefighters, who have a lower base pay average much higher annual incomes than cops simply because they have a great ploy...the availability of unlimited overtime opportunities.  It’s common for a firefighter to rake in 50-75% over his or her base pay annually through overtime, sometimes more.

    Police have a different ploy, they can “transfer” to other agencies and give up none of their accumulated benefits, which sets up a bidding war between agencies.  Unless this changes, we have to substantially increase base police pay because the nature of the job doesn’t lend itself to excessive overtime.  But remember this; Young, ambitious officers have a golden opportunity to advance rapidly through the ranks in the current situation, so San Diego has a cadre of “comers” in SDPD.

    The rest of the work force will be fine, and there’s no need to panic.  There are a lot of California cities and counties that now find themselves much worse off than San Diego, so we don’t need to abandon the plans to deal with our financial crisis caused by granting excessive pension benefits.  The police turnover problem is unique and should be dealt with that way.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Bradshaw: I worked for many years for the City of San Diego. I negotiated on behalf of the union when I was a line employee and I negotiated on behalf of the city when I was a management employee. Wages generally rose based on three factors: 1) inflation (cost of living); 2) recruiting and retention; and 3) competition for labor in similar fields (public and private), which is a subset of #2. I don’t imagine those factors have changed. What is happening now is that the freeze on police salaries is making it difficult to recruit and retain employees. It is also creating a morale problem. The police union has done an excellent job of pointing out the degree of the problem. It’s hard to imagine that the problem does not exist in other fields in the city.

    One of two things will inevitably happen in the case of the police. Either the pay freeze will end early and their wages will rise dramatically to a competitive level or the pay freeze will continue to the end of the five years, at which point wages will rise to a competitive level. In the latter case, morale and collective experience of the force will suffer unnecessarily.

    Either of these outcomes will be counter to the assumptions of Cheiron. They figured, absurdly in my view, in the case of the police and all other employees, that wages would be held back for the ensuing 25 years and thus the city would have a lower pension cost. It’s clearly not working out that way for the police.

    You may imagine that the police are different than all other employee classes in the city. They are unique in some ways. Nevertheless, our capitalist system is based in part on competition among employers for quality employees. The City of San Diego does not exist in a bubble. That however was what was implied by Cheiron and the demagoguing politicians behind Prop B.

    Scott Hasson
    Scott Hasson subscriber

    We should continue as we are with the current pay scale and start to hire officers under a contract that if they want the job, they have to stay 10 years.  

    If they stay they get upgraded to the same level pay as a SD county Sheriff officer with the same seniority.  

    Also, we put a 5% bonus for them in a regular 401k account as an employer paid only account.  They can make changes to the investment like a normal private employer 401k. 

    They reach 10 years they get that money whatever the amount in the account is. 

    They don't reach 10 years in seniority they forfeit the entire account, all of it including all gains over the 10 years.  This is a bonus for new hires and a savings account for them. 

    Lets see the union argue that point!!  They will I am sure...but there is an option.

    The unions have drained the city, we have no money.  So this guarantees employees who stay 10 years a bonus and gives taxpayers some protection to the stealing of employees from other depts.

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    @Scott Hasson  Interesting comments Scott, I'll address them in no particular order.  First, it is hard to claim the city has no money, certainly Todd Gloria would beg to differ with you based on this press release where he claims, "...San Diego has turned a corner financially."  You see it's hard to say your broke, after increasing the financial reserves from 8 to 14% or to 150 million dollars.  Of course, I claim the city was able to do this in part by having SDPD officers work at staffing levels that placed both them and citizens at risk, while paying much less than they get by leaving.  Indeed, they are leaving in huge numbers, which is costing the city tens of millions of dollars.  Your response to this problem, put them under a contract where they must stay ten years.  My response, go ahead I double dawg dare ya.  In an environment where we get 4 qualified applicants for every 100 who apply, and with virtually every police agency in CA hiring, any attempt to have recruits sign a labor contract to stay with SDPD would only create more difficulties finding any qualified applicants.  I know this, but more importantly the Chiefs and elected officials in this city know this would be a laughable response to the problem.  The only way SDPD resolves the morale, productivity, citizen complaints, litigation, recruitment and retention problems etc. created by having staffing and compensation at woefully low levels is to create an organization that meets the needs of both citizens and officers. 

    Jeff Jordon

    Felix Tinkov
    Felix Tinkov subscribermember

    Jeff, can you speak to why the local crime statistics for the past few years have shown a drop in most categories notwithstanding the diminished level of personnel?

    Vlad Kogan
    Vlad Kogan subscriber

    @Scott Hasson So you would then support the other side of that coin, which is the city guaranteeing jobs for city employees for 10 years, regardless of the state of the economy or city finances? What happened to running government like a business?

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    Felix, sure be happy to speak on it.  First, many people believe with crime stats being lowered there is not a need for additional officers.  Unfortunately, few people outside of SDPD know what we have done to provide officers capable of responding to crimes in progress or 911 calls.  We have eliminated the following units:  Harbor, Mounted, Auto Theft Task Force, Division narcotic Teams, DUI Enforcement, STOP Teams (unlicensed driver enforcement), Police Service Officers, investigative Aides, and Code Compliance.  SDPD also reduced patrol staffing investigative units, Canine Units etc, all to backfill for the 300 less officers that we have from 2003.  We also have over 700 volunteers who do everything from work in homicide to computer programming.  We can't continue like this as an organization, we no longer have the resources to meet community needs.  This is showing up in response times (which are rising) and how we handle many calls not reflected in crime stats such as:  homeless outreach, responding to the mentally ill and numerous quality of life issues.  Jeff Jordon

    Felix Tinkov
    Felix Tinkov subscribermember

    @jeff jordon  Good stuff, Jeff.  I appreciate the reasoned dialogue.  I hope the VOSD forums can be used for these sorts of discussions rather than individuals "yelling" at one another.  By shedding light on a situation, and ignoring trolls, we can do much better for the City.

    If you will indulge me a bit further on this topic.  400 officers retiring, or capable of retiring simultaneously, certainly seems to be a significant chunk of the force.  I have a couple of questions relating to this, and the current 300 officer deficit you mentioned.   While I understand that staffing levels from other similarly-sized jurisdictions are used, in part, to gauge whether we are understaffed, is there a City of San Diego plan or document which specifies acceptable officer numbers?  And considering the favorable crime statistics, does it stand to reason that, perhaps, this unplanned for realignment of police focus and reduction in force may be the "new normal", or better yet, a more appropriately sized agency given the circumstances? 

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    Felix, I believe you are making a reference to ratio staffing otherwise known as the number of officers per thousand citizens.  Please see this expert report as to why this is a poor way of determining staffing.  Staffing should be determined by the ability to mee the needs of its citizens through both proactive and reactive policing.  In short, our City Auditor has determined SDPD needs at least 640 officers just to respond to calls for service on a daily basis, leaving the department zero time for proactive work.  We were at 641 within the last month or so, leaving our patrol officers virtually no time to meet the needs of citizens.  Many agencies strive to provide their officers 40% proactive time to make sure they meet response times, as well as community policing goals.  For SDPD to have 40% proactive time, we would need to hire 580 additional officers and this will never happen.  I'll leave it to Chief Zimmerman to determine how much proactive time officers should have to serve community needs, but I think we can all agree nearly zero time is unacceptable.    Jeff Jordon

    Felix Tinkov
    Felix Tinkov subscribermember

    Interesting. So can you give us some ideas of what proactive activities are, how they benefit the community and why they are/should be part of the core responsibility of the police force?

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    There are so many aspects of proactive policing from radar/speed enforcement to encourage vehicles to slow down in high collision areas to the types of police response needed following the series of assaults in North Park recently.  Many resources were dedicated to NP to deter these assaults while these crimes were investigated and this can't be accomplished without adequate staffing.  SDPD also can't proactively address gang issues, prostitution, narcotics dealing without adequate resources.  If police departments don't prevent or deter crime on the front end, we clean up the aftermath which is always more expensive than prevention.  Same can be said on recruiting of officers, you either pay more on the front end or deal with the consequences later.  Jeff Jordon

    msginsd subscriber

    @jeff jordon So you've eliminated all of those units and yet you still have officers working a "bait bike"?  Why?

    Felix Tinkov
    Felix Tinkov subscribermember

    @jeffjordon  Jeff, do you think the SDPD or the POA would consider further realignment in an effort to keep costs down and free up funds for additional recruiting?  Using your examples above, rather than manually operating radar, using mobile radar detectors displaying drivers' speeds to remind/shame people into more reasonable action?  Or forgoing interdiction on marijuana sales altogether in order to better prioritize police activity?

    A nuanced approach seeking to cut fat where possible, eliminating or replacing dusty policies/procedures/equipment, and enhancing core competencies, including the need for additional hires to add  proactive functions, would offer the greatest chance for popular support. 

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    The current situation is getting worse as a combination of several factors.  First, our demographics are cause for great concern.  We know that at least 400 SDPD officers are eligible to retire today per Chief Zimmerman and hundreds more will be eligible to retire in the next 4 years.  This comes at a time when we are already 300 officers below what we need to police this city and creates pressure on hiring.  Unfortunately, the hiring problem is exacerbated by the increase in officers not retiring, but leaving for other local agencies like the deputy sheriffs mentioned above.  Finally, even when we find qualified applicants to enter the police academy, roughly 28 to 30% of our police recruits fail out of the police academy or the field training process.  As for a report demonstrating the negative impact of the current working environment for officers and how they serve the community, I am hoping that the outside audit of SDPD being conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) will shed light on these issues in the near future.  Jeff Jordon