In Imperial Beach report, task force recommends alternative policing methods for community

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IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. – An Imperial Beach task force has recommended that the sheriff’s department limit use of force and for the city to give other agencies resources to respond to non-emergency calls, a report released Wednesday shows.

The ad hoc committee, appointed by Imperial Beach city leaders, was formed earlier this year following a June city proclamation in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It comes amid a national reckoning on community policing spurred on by widespread protests of police violence and racism following the deaths of Black Americans such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others.

In a published report, the committee found that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s data of incidents in Imperial Beach is lacking. They also were tasked with examining what the city spends on law enforcement, an expense which currently makes up roughly 36% of the general fund.

“Accomplishing one of the lowest crime rates in the county was a total community effort led by the sheriff’s department, but success hasn’t been experienced by all,” said Imperial Beach City Manager Andy Hall, reading from the report Wednesday.

The committee, headed by Mayor Pro Tempore, Paloma Aguirre and Councilmember Ed Spriggs, held a series of five public meetings to gather feedback from community members and worked closely with the sheriff’s department, officials said.

Citing its findings, the committee recommended the city explore alternative policing methods such as adding community service officers to address non-emergency situations. It also recommended increased training for sheriff’s deputies in Imperial Beach, including diversity, social justice and unconscious bias training.

The report also credit the city for putting forth a “sincere effort” to improve law enforcement operations in the community.

“The ad hoc committee is confident that together, the City and the Sheriff’s Department can implement innovative and effective systemic changes that will improve law enforcement efforts in the City and result in a safer community by allowing Sheriff Deputies to concentrate on activities most suited for police activities,” the committee said in the report.

Council did not take any specific actions following Wednesday’s presentation. Although the ad hoc committee is disbanded for now, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said council will take the report’s findings and evaluate the way forward.

“Any changes whatsoever, one way or another, are not going to happen overnight,” Aguirre said. “It’s going to be a process and I encourage the community to continue to participate.”

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