San Diego Police Dept. beef up security, Mayor won't allow citizens to feel unsafe.
On Monday morning San Diego’s most powerful lawmakers, police officials and business owners gathered at Mayor Faulconer’s office to discuss details of how San Diego will handle security for their nightclubs and businesses in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Florida.
SDGLN was at the round table along with Activist Nicole Murray-Ramirez, councilmember Todd Gloria and San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, and about 30 other community officials and law enforcement leaders.
After quick introductions the mayor started the meeting by saying, “We will get through all of this together.”
He also said that the city and the LGBT community must stand united and emphasized that the city will have a safe environment.
With the events that happened in Orlando on Sunday morning, cities around the U.S. that have yet to have their Pride celebrations, are concerned with the security and safety of their business neighborhoods.
San Diego is one of the last cities to have their Pride event, and this year promises to be one of its biggest.
Councilmember Todd Gloria started out the meeting by saying he knows the community is scared and on edge right now, but if people are “staying home, the bad guys are winning.”
Thus started a discussion about how the police department will boost their presence, how business owners can help with surveillance and answers to many questions from concerned community leaders.
Police Chief Zimmerman said she spoke with the FBI earlier that morning and they assured her that there is no specific threat to San Diego, “But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be providing increased presence throughout the city, especially in the LGBT areas,” she said.
She continued to say that the presence is not only in vehicles, but she has officers on foot, bicycles and helicopters.
The chief said that there is also a presence which can’t be seen, “We do have officers that are in plain clothes out in the community making sure that everything is safe. We will continue that posture in the foreseeable future.”
She went on to say that this boost in patrol is not only in the LGBT areas, but all throughout the city, wanting to make sure there are no copycats.
“Public safety is a shared responsibility, we all have a role to play in that, every single one of us. Police department, our community members, the media – we all have a role to play in it.”
She says she can’t emphasize enough the importance of citizen’s "saying something if they see something" that they don’t feel is right, referring to a bystander who phoned the police after seeing a young prowler through a Los Angeles neighborhood who turned out to have an arsenal of weapons and chemicals in his trunk.
Mayor Faulconer mirrored her sentiments about safety and wanted to make it very clear that under his watch, he will do everything he can to protect the citizens, and he wants to send a very strong message.
“You will see that over the next several days and of course leading up to pride,” said the mayor. “I’m looking forward to Pride. It’s going to be a great Pride. I’m going to be at the march with my wife Catherine. We are encouraging everyone to come, not only in the region but across the country.”
Ryan Bedrosian, General Manager at Rich’s San Diego thanked the mayor and the police department for their beefed up presence in Hillcrest over the last few days. He said he was happy to see more officers patrolling the area not only during the day, but also in the early hours of the morning.
A concern came up over security during other special events, not just Pride. One attendee at the meeting said he was hosting some very high-profile transgender guests, and asked if the police department would increase their presence for certain events such as that upon request.
Chief Zimmerman said yes that he should contact the police department and they would work with him. Mayor Faulconer also echoed her approval.
"The answer of course is yes," the mayor added, "If there's other specific events coming up in the near term that you all say 'you know what, I just think it would be great to have some extra presence there,' we're here to help guys."
Executive Director of the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus Bob Lehman asked if there was a way to get training just in case of a tragedy. Chief Zimmerman again was accommodating, saying that the LGBT police department liaison officers Christine Garcia and Daniel Meyer are there to help guide people in the community just for that reason.
"The relationships we've built with the community are huge for us," Meyers said. "We have those relationships built for a reason so they have an avenue that will make them feel safe."
Nicole Murray-Ramirez was concerned that if someone wanted to do harm to the community, that person may not even be from San Diego.
Mayor Faulconer said he will re-iterate his stance on "if you see something, say something," leading up to Pride. "I will also re-iterate the significant law enforcement presence that we are going to have for Pride this year.
As the meeting drew to a close, Chief Zimmerman and the mayor were very clear that they not only want to make the community safe, they also want the community to feel safe.
The mayor said that there won't just be a heightened presence of law enforcement but training as well. "Our department, Todd (Gloria) and I are here to serve you. So if there's issues we need to be aware about, that's why we're here. You know who you need to call."
Overall Monday morning's meeting carried with it a "not in my city" feel, but the emphasis was not only on what the mayor and the police department are doing, but how the community is also a key component in making a sizable safety net, an impenetrable force.
As was repeated by the Chief Zimmerman and Mayor Faulconer several times, "If you see something, say something."
Executive Director of Pride, Stephen Whitburn said that he has the greatest confidence in protection from all administrative offices of San Diego, “We’re very fortunate to live in a city that has incredibly supportive leadership, and a police department that is sophisticated and experienced and very familiar with San Diego Pride, and I believe that we are all in very good hands.”