SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - It's a move to help the police staffing crisis in San Jose - reassigning detectives back on patrol. The police union is even calling it a "state of emergency" this as the city's homicide count surpasses last year's record. Staffing levels are so critical the police chief met with the city manager on Monday.
It's the first of many meetings to to address what they call a severe staffing shortage. City leaders called the meeting productive. City leaders said 500 officers are needed to patrol the city of one million people. Latest numbers show it's well below that number.
By next month, you could see more officers back on the streets in San Jose. City leaders consider moving nearly 50 detectives and officers from special operations and investigative units to patrol.
"We got numbers that were so horrific within the last week," said Paul Kelly, San Jose Police Officers Association. "We are talking about over 340 10-hour shifts that need to be filled every single week in patrol."
The move is triggered by a letter from the city manager to the police union detailing the numbers. In the latest bid for shifts, only 413 officers were available for patrol below the department's needed minimum of 500 officers. Before, the gap in positions were backfilled with overtime but that has proven costly.
"If you are asking me are we in a state of emergency absolutely?," said Kelly. "We are going to feel the effects. We are going to feel the effects internally. It will be widespread. It's going to have a ripple effect no doubt about it."
City Spokesman David Vossbrink said the shift changes are necessary. The staffing problem is only getting worse due to attrition and the last police academy had just eight recruits.
"A state of emergency can be a technical term," said Vossbrink. "Everyone agrees we have a serious problem with staffing in our department. It's a problem has been growing over the last six months for sure."
This comes as the department appeared..to be moving forward, possibly undoing the Measure B pension reform. t's been been blamed for the exodus of officers with a new ballot measure this November. One San Jose council member has suggested using outside agencies to boost staffing. The union doesn't support it.
"The sheriff's department is 20 percent understaffed," said Kelly. "The CHP is struggling to answer their calls for service."
City leaders and the police department will keep meeting for the next few days to discuss the reassignment of officers. The hope is to restore staffing as fast as they can as the department deals with 200 vacancies.