The La Mesa City manager appointed a new Chief of Police on Thursday after Chief Walt Vasquez announced his retirement in August 2020.
Greg Humora appointed Ray Sweeney to serve as La Mesa Chief of Police, effective immediately.
Sweeney served as a captain with the La Mesa Police Department since 2015. Before joining the La Mesa Police Department in 2001, Sweeney served in the U.S. Army and subsequently in the California Army National Guard.
“Having just hit a 20 year milestone with the La Mesa community, it is a huge honor and responsibility to be selected as the next Chief of Police. I am truly humbled to lead the great men and women of the La Mesa Police Department into the future, as we reimagine policing for our community," Sweeney said. "My commitment is to strengthen community trust, provide the best public safety services to all who live, work in, or visit our great City, and provide the most comprehensive training for our employees to accomplish this."
Sweeney has developed a "Six Step Action Plan" that addresses a range of policy initiatives for the police department. Sweeney will be discussing the details with the community at upcoming community meetings, the city said.
Sweeney will be launching a community engagement series to meet residents from La Mesa in the coming weeks.
“As Mayor, I am committed to ensuring our residents have a voice on important issues. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of our Community Police Oversight Board (CPOB), Homeless Task Force, business representatives, and the faith community volunteering their time to assist our City Manager in making this decision. I have confidence our new Chief understands we must honor the past but also challenge the future by being more inclusive, listening to our residents, and making positive changes to our policing practices," La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis said in a statement.
The city hired Teri Black & Company (TBC) to conduct the search and collected feedback from the La Mesa community to see what qualities residents would have like in the next police chief. That input included feedback from the La Mesa City Council, the Citizen Public Safety Oversight Task Force, the police department, community leaders and city staff.
Former La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez announced his retirement in August 2020 after five years of leading the department. He previously served the San Diego Police Department for 29 years.
Video of the arrest went viral on social media and was released just days after the killing of George Floyd. Outraged over the two incidents, a protest was held outside the La Mesa Police Department in late May of 2020.
As instigators overshadowed protesters while the night went on, things turned violent and several La Mesa businesses were vandalized, looted and set on fire. While residents and law enforcement clashed during what was turned into a riot, protester Leslie Furcron was shot in the head by a beanbag round by a La Mesa officer.
The La Mesa Police Department has been subject to controversy for its use of force. Last May, officers were seen on video arresting Amaurie Johnson, a Black man who was waiting outside an apartment building for his friend.