San Diego

San Diego Lifeguards; Police Gear Up For Summer

Over the weekend, a San Diego Lifeguard lieutenant raised concerns about resources, in an email obtained by NBC7.

Summer is only a few weeks away, but in terms of policing in Mission Bay, the season starts in just two weeks. That's when San Diego police put their boat unit in the water to investigate accidents and patrol.

During the busier summer months, San Diego Lifeguards also add staff, Chief Rick Wurtz said.

Over the weekend, a San Diego Lifeguard lieutenant raised concerns about resources, in an email obtained by NBC7.

The email described two vessel accidents in which the lifeguard said San Diego police did not respond. In one accident, the email stated lifeguards believed they got false information from people involved and wanted more help from police in investigating.

"There were literally no boating trained (police) officers able to help with our crews on Saturday's difficult case," the lieutenant stated.

Wurtz said the email was unfounded and a misunderstanding. Both top SDPD and Lifeguard officials said the incidents were minor and did not require police presence.

"San Diego police is incredible responsive. Every time, San Diego lifeguards call San Diego PD for a priority call, we immediately receive police officers who come down and provide assistance," Wurtz said. "There's never been a scenario where we needed someone for a priority issue and not had a police officer there."

Police Captain Mark Hanten said the weekend boat accidents mentioned in the email were not serious enough to warrant a police response.

"Our lieutenant was aware. He called the sergeant on duty at the time. If it had been a significant accident, with a serious injury, or if alcohol had been involved, we would have called out one of our boat trained officers," Hanten said.

Hanten said two more boat trained officers are in training now, approaching the summer months, and a crew is ready to start patrol May 7.

"We don't stand up a full time boat unit during the winter time because our lifeguard unit and partners do a tremendous job with that and it's unnecessary," Hanten said.

In an exclusive interview with NBC7, Wurtz praised police work at the beach, highlighting an incident a few weeks ago in which thieves robbed beachgoers' backpacks.

"Literally, within an hour, these guys tracked down people who had taken the backpacks, made arrests and returned the backpacks to their rightful owners so those folks went home with all their gear that day," said Wurtz

Some Pacific Beach business owners say they're not so impressed with the promptness of police response, but don't blame police.

Paradise Cove owner David McDaniel has been working on Cyrstal Pier for 34 years. He said he doesn't even bother calling police for issues like shoplifters or homeless people who are bothering people, unless they appear to be a real threat.

"We had a homeless person out here a few days ago, kinda deranged and yelling and screaming, lunging at people. We weren't quite ready for 9-1-1, but we needed some attention," McDaniel said. "I was on hold for 45 minutes."

McDaniel said some of his business neighbors sometimes ask lifeguards for assistance or try to handle issues themselves because he says they know police won't respond quickly.

"I realize they're understaffed, so I'm not blaming them. You don't even call anymore because they're not going to answer," he said, adding he blames the City Council for not budgeting correctly.

"I think they need to fix the problem. Spend the money you have to spend and get and adequate police force. Pay them what you have to pay them," McDaniel said.

Hanten said the public can help with police response times by being cognizant of the difference between a true crime in progress, where police could possibly catch a criminal in action, and what is suspicious activity, such as vandalism. Non-emergency calls can be directed to (619) 531-2000

Contact Us