In response to a controversial study that labeled Santa Monica as one of the least safe cities in the state, Police Chief Ramon Batista and City Manager David White released a joint statement, which detailed the steps being taken to keep the City safe and noted that SMPD vacancies are at a historic level.
The study by SafeWise.com, a company selling security systems, listed Santa Monica as the 224 safest city in California out of 300. City officials criticized the study’s methodology and said it painted an inaccurate picture of crime in Santa Monica.
In a follow up statement on April 7, White and Batista listed the measures the City is taking to address safety concerns. One of these measures is temporarily reassigning traffic cops and detectives to patrol duty in response to high police officer vacancy levels. The goal is to increase the presence of officers on the streets and the number of personnel available to respond to 911 calls for service.
In the joint statement, White and Batista said that SMPD is experiencing historic vacancy levels and connected this to the ongoing national labor shortage.
In a podcast interview with the Daily Press, Batista said that while the City and its business districts have been steadily growing for the last 15 or 20 years, the number of SMPD officers has remained relatively stagnant. He said that these staffing levels do not meet the needs that the department has today.
The Santa Monica Police Officers Association released a statement in response to the SafeWise.com study that criticized its methodology, but acknowledged that local property crime rates are high and said that more officers are needed to tackle this problem.
“For quite some time, but most notably the last couple of years, the Santa Monica Police Department has been faced with significant labor shortages. Personnel retirements, job related injuries and pandemic related compensation reductions relative to other law enforcement organizations continue to pose significant barriers to addressing the labor shortage issue.
The SMPD is understaffed for a population of 90,000, let alone the 300,000+ who come on our busiest days,” stated the SMPOA.
According to SMPD statistics there are currently 14 sworn officer vacancies out of a total of 221 budgeted positions. In December 2020 these numbers were 10 vacancies out of a total of 228 positions, and in December 2019 they were 15 vacancies out of a total of 221 positions.
SMPD is currently using a variety of recruitment strategies including job fairs, community events, recruitment videos and social media pages. In order to reach a younger demographic they have launched the @JoinSMPD Instagram page and are planning to host virtual ride-alongs and live Q&A sessions. SMPD also matches applicants with a seasoned staff mentor to guide them through the application process and are hosting training and preparation classes at Santa Monica College and Santa Monica High School. During these classes interested candidates meet with police officers, gain insights into the testing process and participate in a practice physical fitness qualifier.