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National City Native Takes On New Role As Police Chief

Evening Edition

San Diego County's second-oldest city was established in 1887.

National City still has some of the historic Victorian homes built back then. And today, a kid who grew up in the neighborhood is now its police chief.

Manuel Rodriguez has been an officer for nearly 28 years and was recently promoted to chief of police in the community where he grew up.

"It's something that I've been working for, really my whole career," Rodriguez said.

He spent 20 years with the San Diego Police Department, where he learned the value of community policing. When he returned to National City eight years ago, he brought it with him. And it appears to be paying off.

The crime rate has dropped 25 percent since 2006. National City is also the first municipality in the county to install motion-activated cameras in non-residential areas where neighbors have reported drug activity and prostitution.

"Really what made the difference was the community felt that the officers were working with them," he said. "And it actually worked the other way, too, because now the officers felt an obligation to the community."

Kindness and compassion is the basis for Rodriguez's work ethic and he tries to instill that philosophy in his staff of 120.

"We're constantly being bombarded with challenges," he said. "But we rise to meet those challenges ... so the idea to serve and make difference continues."

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