San Diego

North County Report: Escondido’s Police Budget Is Going Up

June 23, 2021

Despite group calls for to reallocate public security funds away from the police finances, Escondido officers are setting apart practically $3 million greater than final year’s finances to reinstate officers who can work on homeless outreach and site visitors enforcement, increase salaries and improve the town’s emergency response system.

The metropolis’s finances for the police division for the upcoming fiscal year is greater than $49 million.

“The increase is not that big of a deal,” Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara wrote in an e-mail to Voice of San Diego.

But it’s to activists who’ve been calling for the town to place much less money into the Police Department and extra money into social providers. About three dozen folks challenged the hike at a latest City Council meeting, the Union-Tribune reported. Many of them argued the money could possibly be higher spent on serving to the homeless get off the streets. (Escondido has the very best variety of homeless residents in North County, according to San Diego’s latest point-in-time count.)

Leyel Joy Malavé, an organizer with the activist group We the People Escondido, stated she’s not shocked that the City Council authorised the rise. Escondido’s police finances has trended upward over the past 5 years, although final year’s $45.6 million police finances represented a slight decline from the year prior.

Community activists like Malavé, Yusef Miller of the Racial Justice Coalition and others joined a nationwide motion to “defund the police” and reallocate funds to group providers following the homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis final summer season. They argued that armed cops disproportionately goal folks of coloration and are not the proper folks to answer psychological health-related calls. Malavé’s group is constant to push for a police oversight committee, however Malave informed me she hasn’t obtained an ample response from metropolis leaders.

“Pretty much any kind of talk about racial inequality and systematic racism isn’t really acknowledged here in Escondido, she said. “They positively actually ignore it.”

Though the movement was started to address racial justice, in Escondido it’s taken a turn to also advocate for the city’s homeless population after Escondido police officer Chad Moore shot and killed Steven Olson, a homeless man who police officers on the team frequently interacted with, in April. Following the shooting, activists pressed the Escondido City Council again to adopt an independent oversight committee and cut police funding while beefing up social services.

Before the City Council approved the additional spending on police, the group wrote, “Don’t overlook what we marched for final summer season! We should proceed to use stress on our native authorities!” in a social media post. The group also provided residents with talking points about how funding for drug addiction and other services will prevent crime in the long term.

This week, McNamara and Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso said in separate interviews that it’s not ideal for police officers to respond to homeless needs in the community, but argued that officers are still first responders and the department needs the extra funding to create relationships with the homeless community before they end up in crisis. They both praised a county program that assigns mental health professionals to respond to certain calls with police officers, called the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, but said they need more of those responders to address the needs at all times of the day.

“We do want extra help,” Varso said. “It takes time and funding … not essentially chopping regulation enforcement.”

The department will restore three police officer positions to its Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving team with the additional funding “to supply a more practical, environment friendly and constant stage of service by growing protection and proactivity to additional the town’s strategy for addressing the group impacts of homelessness whereas being delicate to the significance of tackling underlying causes and serving to folks,” the town’s working finances doc reads.

The division’s web site additionally reads, “The unit’s essential goal is to scale back crime and deal with public considerations by means of a community-based, problem-solving strategy that produces significant crime discount and an enhanced high quality of life.”

While Varso doesn’t disagree with community activists who don’t believe law enforcement should be the only one responding to homeless calls, he said there aren’t enough state and county resources available for addressing the needs of homeless individuals, and police from his department are usually the ones to get involved when someone is in crisis. At the same time, he said, removing police from homeless-related calls isn’t a viable solution because there’s no one else available to do it. He also said he’d like to see additional resources from the state and county to help people released from jail to end the cycle of criminalization.

“Usually at that time, they’re in actually dangerous place. It’s normally too late,” he said. “But we will not simply not reply.”

McNamara argued that until there’s a comprehensive system in place to assist people suffering from mental health illness, the city is “considerably caught” using its Police Department and giving it more money to help address it.

“We might get right into a dialogue about whose duty it’s to answer the psychological concern — cities or county since it’s a well being concern. But as you additionally know, there’s actually no system in place to handle this problem. … Not ideally suited in my thoughts, however there is no such thing as a different in place or on the horizon,” McNamara said.

The Escondido City Council previously approved additional funding for another clinician and case manager the local nonprofit Interfaith Community Services Homeless Outreach Team. The nonprofit’s chief executive officer, Greg Anglea, said his team is working alongside local police officers to get homeless residents connected to services, but believes cities really need to focus on housing.

He said it’s wise to look at how cities are funding operations, but more important to look at what they’re doing to provide affordable housing for residents.

“Communities want to know that cities have a alternative … If they don’t seem to be creating inexpensive housing, then they don’t seem to be doing their half to finish homelessness,” he said.

Anglea also told me that Olson, the homeless man killed by Escondido police, had requested a shelter bed from Interfaith, but the group didn’t have one available for him at the time, so they put him on a waiting list and he didn’t return when they called him back. “The actuality is we’d like extra resources,” he said. “If we had a mattress that day, would his case have turned out in another way?”

Varso said the district attorney’s office is still investigating the case. Moore is still employed by the Escondido Police Department. At a recent City Council meeting, Escondido Councllwoman Consuelo Martinez said that she never wants to see another incident like that.

Varso said Olson had been stuck in “this horrible revolving cycle” of being arrested — more than 100 times — and not getting or refusing the resources he needed. “He had been violent in the neighborhood main as much as the capturing that occurred,” Varso said.

Meanwhile, Malave said the increase in police spending is “largely upsetting” because the City Council has been adamant that it can’t do anything more than throw more money at enforcement. She said her group is pushing the Council now to provide “minimum-line” resources like public restrooms for the homeless community in Escondido.

What We’re Working On

  • Cal State San Marcos students are protesting the university’s decision to keep a professor it concluded had harassed students on campus. I wrote that the case underscores how such incidents are typically hidden from public view and that the lack of transparency leaves students and faculty in the dark about how their schools handle sexual harassment cases. At the same time, the faculty union who defended and advocated for Kumar to keep his job said it had no choice.
  • Voice of San Diego reporter MacKenzie Elmer broke down how the Oceanside seawall dispute hints at looming decisions over sea-level rise.

In Other News

  • In a highly publicized case, the Coronado Unified School Board voted to fire Coronado High School basketball coach J.D Laaperi after players on the team threw tortillas at players from Orange Glen High School at a recent CIF championship game. A majority of students at OGHS in Escondido are Latino, and community members are calling it a racist insult. (NBC 7)
  • The Oceanside City Council approved construction of a 60-unit apartment building for the homeless and postponed a decision on who will operate a 50-bed emergency shelter at its latest meeting. (Union-Tribune)
  • Scripps Health is opening a center in Encinitas to offer comprehensive rehab services including a range of therapies. (Coast News)
  • The San Dieguito School Board will keep its interim superintendent Lucile Lynch on board through the end of the calendar year. (Coast News)
  • More library books could be saved from Escondido’s book weeding process. The Escondido library board will now leave “weeding” to library employees. (Coast News)
  • Kori Jensen, the appointed City Council member for District 1 in Oceanside, addressed the recall try towards her in an interview with KPBS.
  • A choose issued a tentative order rejecting a lawsuit to cease the San Onofre nuclear plant dismantlement. (Union-Tribune)
  • And lastly, in May the town of Encinitas opened a “passive-use” park with no public restrooms or public parking. Now neighbors are complaining that people are parking cars where they’re obstructing fire lanes, publicly urinating and loitering on private lawns. (Coast News)

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit news organization supported by our members. We reveal why things are the way they are and expose facts that people in power might not want out there and explain complex local public policy issues so you can be engaged and make good decisions. Sign up for our newsletters at

Back to top button