SJ report calls into question police supervisor ratio

December 9, 2010 7:03:06 PM PST
The San Jose Police Department is top heavy with management. An eye-opening audit of the police department shows the city could be saving millions of dollars, so making a change would bring San Jose in line with other major cities.

In the past 10 years staffing levels at the police department have decreased 14 percent, but the operating budget has actually increased 47 percent. The city auditor is suggesting some changes that could not only save money, but actually increase patrols.

The city auditor's message to the San Jose Police Department is that it is top-heavy and has too many high paying supervisors that are costing the city a lot of money. City auditor Sharon Erickson spent five months reviewing staffing at the police department.

"You can convert some of those [upper ranks] to patrol positions. So the idea would be to flatten the organization and get as many people as you can out on patrol," says Erickson.

The number of employees per supervisor is referred to as "span of control."

For the San Jose Police Department, the auditor found there is one sergeant for every 4.5 officers. That compares to a ratio of 1:7 in San Francisco, 1:8 in Dallas, and 1:10 in Phoenix.

The audit found that increasing San Jose's span of control could save the city millions of dollars, up to $33 million if it went to a 1:10 sergeant to officer ratio.

Almost surprisingly, fiscal conservative Mayor Chuck Reed says it's too early to commit to any changes.

"I'm not ready to conclude what the right ratio is. The sergeants, lieutenants, and captains are very important to the leadership of the department. I think we have to be very cautious about that, but it's certainly one of those things that we have to look at very seriously," says Reed.

The police union already made concessions this year to avoid layoffs and has promised to vigorously fight the mayor on future budget cuts.

Acting police chief, Chris Moore, told ABC7 by phone he is proud of the span of control number because it indicates an experienced department. Yet, he went on to add, "It is entirely possible, and I hate to even say it, but the next budget could bring not only layoffs but the possibility of demotions."

Moore has reason to be concerned. In just the last week, the city manager has increased San Jose's projected budget deficit from $70 million to $90 million.

The report will be presented to a city council committee next week.


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