San Diego police recruits in training
  • San Diego police recruits in training
  • from city’s current police recruiting web page
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Despite the offer of hefty new pay boosts, worthy prospects aren't exactly falling all over themselves to sign up to be San Diego cops. Now, with SDPD ranks dwindling to 1787 by recent count (down from 1833 in 2016) — and current vacancies at a record-breaking 250 — ex–public relations wizard Kevin Faulconer has hit the panic button.

As with the series of other recent crises, San Diego's Republican mayor has been battling, including downtown's homeless scourge and its follow-on hepatitis A epidemic, the call has gone out for high-dollar spin artists to come up with a "Branding and Marketing Strategy."

Notes a February 23 online request for proposals, "The San Diego Police Department’s successful recruitment of talented Police recruits is a top priority for Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer."

"The City seeks a Contractor to develop a branding and marketing strategy for the implementation of a recruitment campaign exclusively for the San Diego Police Department. The Contractor will work closely with the SDPD to create the branding and consistent messaging that can be utilized across all marketing media and communication delivery methods to reach a core targeted demographic."

In-house sloganeers are apparently in short supply at city hall, creating the mayor's urgent demand for high-pressure sales tactics from the outside.

At the top of the city's wish list is the creation of "a Slogan or Tagline which is specific to and captures the mission and goals of the SDPD." Also sought: "a Digital Design Concept for the recruitment and training website that is consistent with the campaign but true to City’s branding and style guide cheat sheet."

Other needs include a "social media strategy," a "billboard and print strategy," and a "new suite of print materials which will be used at various outreach and recruitment events and fairs (including booth banner)," along with "Radio and Television script (and production of one of either concept)."

Cost of the putative two-year contract is not to exceed $350,000, says the call for proposals. "City may require Contractor to perform additional Services beyond those described in the Scope of Services. Before Contractor commences such work, the Parties must agree in writing upon a fee for the Additional Services, including reasonably related expenses." There is an option for an extra three years.

Whoever gets picked likely will draw the scrutiny of critics, who worry that rather than Faulconer's strategy of rushing to fill the ranks by means of flashy advertising, the city needs to devote more time and money on attracting quality recruits.

They point to other California cities, including Oakland, where only 11 of the 33 in the latest class of the basic recruit academy made it through to join the force as a result of rigorous pre-graduation screening.

A 2016 audit there found that, in more than a third of the 78 police misconduct cases that were examined by auditors, the accused were hired after 2012, per a December 2017 report by the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We’ve been willing to have fewer officers on the street in order to have the best officers. I will take that trade-off and pay that price,” Oakland police chief Anne Kirkpatrick told the paper.

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Visduh March 6, 2018 @ 2:48 p.m.

Could the fact that the chief was just replaced by another up-from-tjhe-ranks SDPD veteran have anything to do with this? Kev-boy and the council all agreed to conduct a national search to find the best possible candidate. After an opaque process by a committee, they settled on another good old boy in the department. This is how that position has been filled for as long as I've lived in the San Diego area.

Could it be that applicants really prefer to work in a department that has a good reputation, of which there are several in the county and throughout Southern California? It comes across as if the expectation was a promised pay raise would bring them flocking. The department needs plenty of repair work, and regaining confidence of the citizenry is just part of the job to be done. There isn't any quick-and-easy solution for a beaten up department like this one.


Cassander March 6, 2018 @ 4:04 p.m.

Didn't you, JustWondering, and I call this last May? That's why I have this name: it's a curse being right when it never changes anything.


aardvark March 6, 2018 @ 4:14 p.m.

Have you lived here long? I thought that Chief Lansdowne moved from San Jose to be police chief here in 2003? Not that that hiring went well, but he at least wasn't promoted from within.


Visduh March 6, 2018 @ 5:15 p.m.

My bad. He was the exception who proved the rule. But he upheld the traditions of the department, in that he was a weak as his predecessors.


AlexClarke March 7, 2018 @ 6:40 a.m.

This is typical of our so called political leaders; hire a consultant for tons of money to come up with a slogan or tag line. If the San Diego idiot leaders want to know what the problem is ask the rank and file police officers. Get out of your taxpayer funded offices and go on a ride along with the police officers that are on the street day in and day out. As long as you talk to each other and the trapped-in-their-office command officers you will know nothing. Everything is not about pay it is about benefits, training, support, equipment etc. God politicians are stupid.


Visduh March 7, 2018 @ 9:05 a.m.

One final, I hope, salvo: Kevin made a career of public relations, and the current buzz word in that occupation is "branding." Actually, there are plenty of examples of successful branding, and locally I can think of no better example than the Marine Corps. But a successful brand has more than just slick ads, slogans, brochures and talking points. It has to deliver something tangible and consistent over a long period of time. (We're talking decades here.)

If the "mare" actually thinks that some costly, slick campaign is going to turn those numbers around in a few weeks, he really believes his own BS. And that's always a possibility.


swell March 7, 2018 @ 2:13 p.m.

Recruiting police is a simple matter. You ask yourself 'what do potential police recruits want?' And then you offer it to them. So here are some of the things that they want:

1 Power. They like to be able to intimidate, dominate other people.

2 Guns. Big ones, other weapons too. See #1

3 Uniforms. Announcing to the world that they have Power.

4 Donuts. This should be the logo. Very tempting.

OR you might seek a different kind of recruit. One who cares about family, the community, and is aware of the idiosyncrasies of police politics. Money and guns won't buy these people, but give them some influence that can help change the leadership. Give them a voice in department policy and how their work is accomplished.


dwbat March 7, 2018 @ 2:46 p.m.

The City already has a large Communications dept., headed up by Katie Keach (formerly Todd Gloria's evasive flack). Why can't that department with its overpaid PR people do this work, instead of the City offering $350,000 to an outside contractor? This is outrageous.


Visduh March 7, 2018 @ 3:01 p.m.

Probably because those overpaid PR people can't do an effective job of selling anything. Communications for them may be just telling some things that need to be explained. But making them desirable? That's the hard part.


dwbat March 8, 2018 @ 8:41 a.m.

As the old saying goes, ad and PR agencies are paid to "put lipstick on a pig."


MURPHYJUNK March 9, 2018 @ 7:40 a.m.

at one time, weren't you the guy that held down the pic while the lipstick was being applied ?


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