A third-party recruiting firm has been hired by the City of La Mesa to help search for its next police chief after its leader announced his retirement last year.
The city announced it hired Teri Black & Company (TBC) to conduct the search and it has since collected feedback from the La Mesa community to see what qualities residents would 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.
Public input was also gathered in a community meeting that was held in December as well as from an online community survey.
According to the city, 25 applications have been filled for the role and are now being screened. The most qualified candidates will be interviewed by two panels: one community stakeholder panel and a professional one.
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The professional panel includes executives in local government around San Diego while the former includes representatives from La Mesa’s school district, its citizen task force on homelessness, the La Mesa Community Police Oversight Board, the faith-based community and the city’s police officer association.
Those who are selected to advance in the hiring process will then be interviewed by La Mesa city staff.
The city estimates that with interviews being completed by the end of March, a new hire announcement may be made in April.
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.
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.
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.