Fact Check: $18K More Working for the Sheriff's Department - Voice of San Diego

Fact Check UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Fact Check: $18K More Working for the Sheriff's Department

The vice president of San Diego Police Officers Association claimed veteran San Diego officers could make almost $18,000 more working for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

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.

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.

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