SAN DIEGO — Crowds are coming back to Downtown San Diego and many other tourist spots as we move away from the COVID era. The trend also means more calls for police. And sometimes it's overwhelming.
San Diego Police Sgt. Jared Wilson is president of the San Diego Police Officers’ Association. Wilson told CBS 8, "We had several critical incidents over the weekend, including shootings at Belmont Park, a shooting and melee in the Gaslamp, and a hostage crisis situation in Tierrasanta."
The department was below minimum staffing, he said, at Eastern Division, which handles Tierrasanta. "Downtown was even more critical: 40% under minimum staffing for the night shift on Friday night," said Wilson.
There was a shooting near 6th Avenue and F Street and an unrelated bar fight a block away that spilled into the street that night, leaving an officer hospitalized.
"While our officers performed highly; they were outnumbered. Downtown had to call for mutual aid from the Harbor Police and all available units from South-Eastern Division. And that leaves other areas unstaffed and one officer in the intensive care unit."
The sergeant says some 9-1-1 calls were unanswered Friday night; many more were still on hold Saturday morning.
Wilson blames a workforce that's fallen woefully below what's needed in San Diego. The median pay rate for other cities is about 17% above that in San Diego. "We've lost over 180 officers in this fiscal year alone and it's not sustainable We can't protect the city with this low number of officers on the street."
Davina Salerno said she’s troubled by the violence. "There's a shooting at the beach! It's everywhere; the coaster, where families go! Multiple shootings that week! Spring break, it was crazy! Things are kooky right now, for sure!,” said Salerno.
Police want higher pay and better benefits. They’re asking for increases to get them to the median level over the next two or three years.
Mayor Todd Gloria won't make any promises but is optimistic that negotiations will work out well. "We will be providing raises to our police officers, as well as to our firefighters, lifeguards and other public safety professionals. San Diego is an expensive place to live and frankly, they've earned it," said Gloria.
WATCH RELATED: Man shot by police outside of San Diego Harbor Police Headquarters (April 2022).