SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The San Jose Police Department has relied heavily on overtime over the last decade, as the department continues to face significant understaffing.
According to a new report released by the city auditor, SJPD’s overtime hours have increased 300% over the last 10 years and accounted for 10% of the department’s total budget.
The department has dealt with low staffing numbers over the last 20 years, the lowest staffing numbers coming in 2016-2017 where there were only 1,107 budgeted positions.
“Overtime is used for routine purposes and some of that can’t really be changed,” said San Jose State University Public Administration Professor Fances Edwards.
“There’s no way for the police department to estimate how many hours of overtime they’re going to need for disasters and emergencies in any given year,” Edwards added.
“Others years like 2020 between all the other demands of COVID-19 and the community demonstrations related to Black Lives Matter and other social service requirements, the police officers were on overtime.”
Edwards tells KRON4 News the city of San Jose faces similar challenges with its budget as other cities across the country due to a proposition that was passed back in the 1970s, which limits the city tapping into increased property value.
Under Proposition 13, cities across California are limited on how they could value property for taxation purposes.
“And since that time it limits the increase in taxes on homes to no more than 2% a year of the original purchase price and then each year’s increment,” said Edwards.
“You can’t quickly see how the department can’t balance a budget when the property tax income is only going up two percent and the labor cost is going up 5%” Edwards added.
“You quickly hit an imbalance.”
The city auditor’s report comes nearly two months after the Annual Report of City Services for the city of San Jose revealed the department failed to meet its own response time goals.
The department says they are doing the very best they can to meet their own expectations but point to various factors including the lack of officers it needs to patrol the city.
In addition, over the last several months the department has also had to navigate the departure of longtime San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia.
“Obviously there’s a role for police officers to play in preserving the public safety and the dignity of our fellow human beings,” said Sajid Khan, deputy alternate county public defender.
“But I don’t believe that we are doing it the right way.”
Khan tells KRON4 News having officers work overtime to make up for a staffing shortage doesn’t benefit anyone — officers working extended shifts will be tired on the job and oftentimes officers respond to mental health situations they are not trained for.
“When I look at a report like this, it’s just a reminder of how we misallocate our resources, it’s also a reminder of what we are asking police officers to do that they’re not necessarily trained or qualified to do,” said Khan.
“And that can be done better by other people in our community to ensure those same goals of public safety, dignity and the well-being of all of our people.”
The report says layoffs and reductions in budgeted staffing during the Great Recession along with high numbers of resignations and retirements in subsequent years, resulted in a decline in the number of active sworn officers.
The city budgeted for 1,358 sworn staff in 2001 but as it stands that number has decreased to 1,157 officers in 2020-2021.
According to the report, although the department has begun to grow again, the department’s police force is overall less experienced than it was 10 years ago.
KRON4 News reached out to the San Jose Police Officers Association for a comment but has not yet heard back.