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Large Management Team Costs San Jose Police Department Millions

SAN JOSE (KCBS) - San Jose police officers have more supervision than most other police in the country, and reducing the command staff could save as much as $33 million a year, according to an auditor's report.

Currently each sergeant supervises, on average, four officers. Doubling the number of officers under each sergeant would save $26 million dollars. Even a ratio of one sergeant for every six officers would save $15 million, said City Auditor Sharon Erickson.

"It's a very low span of control compared to other departments," she said.

KCBS' Mike Colgan Reports:

Her findings on the cost of so many sergeants resulted from a five-month review of police staffing levels that Chris Moore, the acting police chief, said are justified given the department's structure.

"We're unlike any other major city police department, where we operate out of one building, one campus," Moore said.

There are no precincts, so some areas of town with a higher volume of calls for service will operate with greater supervision than areas where calls are less intense, he said.

Greater contact with a sergeant translates into more responsible policing, Moore said.

"When you have first line supervision and solid first line supervision, you're much less likely to be engaged in significant uses of force, and when those force uses of force occur you have much better response and a more coordinated response."

City Councilman Pete Constant, who worked as a San Jose police officer for 11 years, said the police auditor's recommendations made sense, especially given the recent layoffs that primarily cut officers.

"The command structure, all the higher supervision, was kept intact," he said.

A one to six or one to eight ratio is reasonable for a city of San Jose's size, according to Constant.

"We must remember that we have one of the highest educated, best trained police departments in the nation and our officers can work with a greater span of control," he said.

A city council public safety committee will take up the recommendations later in December.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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