Photo by from city’s current police recruiting web page
San Diego police recruits in training
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.