Proposals for San Jose Police Substation, Academy Retention under Scrutiny

When the city approved the buildout of a $90.8 million police substation in south San Jose, it had 1,400 sworn officers on the force and expected to keep growing. Now, three years after finishing construction on the 107,000-square-foot facility, there is still a slim chance it can open in full force by 2014.

A memo from Police Chief Chief Larry Esquivel says he aims to open at least part of the new station by next year—running the office with some non-patrol units and 14 full-time positions will cost $2.3 million a year. Another $3.2 million would also need to go toward furniture, fixtures and other equipment.

Esquivel suggests delaying the opening until at least next summer, the start of the new fiscal year. By then he might have more officers to staff the office—but not at this rate. Of the department’s 988 street-ready officers, 70 are on leave or modified duty, 39 remain in field training, and up to three retire each month while another six a month resign or leave for other cities.

“The department has historically been centralized, and, while efficiencies are expected by opening the substation, there is concern about potential impacts of decentralizing with the current low-filled staffing level,” Esquivel writes.

Esquivel’s memo comes just as a couple controversial plans to retain police recruits goes before the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday. The plans, in response to reports of an early exodus of police academy graduates, suggest the city require repayment for training costs if cadets leave within five years of joining the force.

One plan, authored by Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and Councilman Johnny Khamis, would have graduates of the San Jose Police Department academy work for the city up to five years until they pay off the cost of training. Councilmember Sam Liccardo’s idea would give cadets a no-interest loan, with the repayment amount decreasing over a five-year period.

It costs the city about $170,000 to recruit and train each officer. According to recent reports, the city stands to lose nearly half its latest graduating class and $2.9 million it cost to train them.

Police Officers Association (POA) President Jim Unland calls both proposals delusional because they ignore the reason officers are leaving in the first place: a bad pension deal for the younger recruits and pay cuts for existing officers.

“Sam calls his plan a carrot and a stick, but I think it’s just a stick,” Unland says.

Unland and the POA have actively encouraged new recruits to take jobs at other agencies to take advantage of better benefits, he says. It’s commonplace for police departments to recruit laterally from each other. San Jose, he says, has been doing it for years.

“Until three years ago, we’ve always been happily taking people trained in other cities,” he says. “Now that it happens to us, the city says, ‘How dare these people?’”

Charging incoming recruits for their training won’t help with retention; it’ll drive people away before they even sign up, Unland says.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for November 6, 2013:

• A worker for a lead, asbestos and mold removal business picked the wrong street to wash his company truck. David Wall says his neighbor, an employee of PW Environmental Services, Inc., hoses down the company truck because the employer doesn’t offer a place to do that at work.

“I have concerns that the aforementioned hazardous materials could, through the aforementioned ‘cleaning processes,’ be deposited on the public street,” Wall writes.

• Wall also likens the City Council discussions about how to stop the police staffing exodus to “an orchestra of scorched cats.”

• San Jose’s main planning document—Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan—lays out a blueprint for a city made up of high-density mixed-use development called urban villages. City leaders will meet from 9am to noon on Nov. 12 to talk about financing strategies to build up more of these master-planned communities.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

3 Comments

  1. sell the dang building SJ will never have enough officers to staff it.  And the city need more money to build a ball park right Chuck!

  2. OK let’s be careful what we say here not to hurt mr Khamis feelings.  He said the building was going to be open months ago.  And by opening it police response times would improve.  He forgot the police are not firemen and do not respond from a station.  Maybe he does not know what he is talking about?