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Local NAACP Leader to La Mesa: Let Us Help Pick ‘New Kind’ of Police Chief

Created: 15 August, 2020
Updated: 14 August, 2022
2 min read

The leader of the NAACP’s San Diego chapter on Friday offered La Mesa help in selecting its new police chief in the wake of its current chief, Walt Vasquez, announcing his retirement Thursday.

“We would love to facilitate a listening tour among La Mesa residents and visitors,” said Francine Maxwell, president of the local NAACP branch.

In an open letter to Mayor Mark Arapostathis, Maxwell said a tour would discover traits in a new chief that would make the community active participants in reducing crime and making La Mesa a safer city.

“Such a tour will show what is required from the La Mesa PD to be a resource for all its residents, rather than to be viewed as an occupying force by so many,” she said.

At Thursday night’s online Town Hall, City Manager Greg Humora — with the authority to hire the new chief — said a selection plan would be laid out in coming days.

“We in La Mesa have a chance to start fresh,” Councilman Bill Baber told Times of San Diego. “We need a courageous, accountable, transparent, innovator as our next chief.”

He said the new chief should be someone who understands the city’s diverse community and will inspire “our brave men and women in LMPD to be their best. Dear God, I hope we can find that person.”

From Maxwell’s perspective, Vasquez’s exit “presents the city and the region with an exciting opportunity to change not only the culture of the La Mesa PD, but the entire paradigm of policing.”

She noted that nearly all the region’s top law enforcement officials spent most of their careers in the San Diego Police Department, “where they learned nearly all the same viewpoints, methods, and habits, both for dealing with their officers and the community.”

Her letter concluded: “We know there will soon be more turnover of the top law enforcement jobs in our region. If La Mesa can change the narrative of policing for itself, it can lead the way for larger cities and the county.

“This is a golden opportunity for La Mesa to show how to choose not only a new police chief, but a new kind of police chief.”

This story was republished with permission from timesofsandiego.com.