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Chula Vista Police Department To Swear In First Woman Chief

December 29, 2016 1:52 p.m.

Chula Vista Police Department To Swear In First Woman Chief

GUEST:

Roxana Kennedy, police chief, Chula Vista Police Department

Related Story: Chula Vista's First Woman Police Chief On Her Plans For The City

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

One of the New Year's changes in law enforcement around the county officially takes place tomorrow in Chula Vista. Roxana Kennedy will be sworn in as Chula Vista police chief. She succeeds chief David Bejarano. Kennedy has been with the Chula Vista force for 24 years she will be the city's first female police chief. Captain Roxana Kennedy joins us now. Welcome.
Thank you.
Thank you for coming in with a cold. I appreciate it.
I sound different today.
What are the different challenges you see facing public safety in Chula Vista?
Right now, law enforcement is under a lot of scrutiny. There is negative perceptions. My goal is for us to reach out much more so with the community so that they understand the challenges that we also face in law enforcement and that we can work together and come up with strategies that make us more successful. The community needs us and we need them as well.
How would you say relations are between the public and the police force in Chula Vista?
I think fantastic. We have a great relationship with our community. We have always been very involved in community policing. For us, it might be different than it is in other areas. San Diego County in general is a very good area and very supported by the community.
You have been in the Chula Vista police force for more than 20 years. During that time, you have probably seen what is working in the department and what isn't. I will ask you what isn't working and how do you want to change it.
That is a hard question to answer. I am very proud of Chula Vista Police Department. We have done a lot of things that are phenomenal. If there is one thing I would like to improve upon, it would be improving customer service and improving follow-up with the community. Often times, the community members -- of a crime happens to you, it may not be the biggest crime in the world. If you are impacted by a, it has affected your life. Sometimes people have questions and they will follow up. I am looking at different programs that we might be able to implement that would help us have more outreach to our community and provide them with more feedback and information.
You mention community policing. This is something that you want to emphasize as chief
Absolutely. I have been an instructor at the San Diego regional police Academy for 22 years. Community policing is the foundation in my opinion of strong policing. Some people might hear the word community and assume that it might be a softer term of policing. It is actually much tougher on crime. You are involving all the stakeholders. More people -- the more people you can involved, the better off we will be. It does not mean we will not be out the crime-fighting as officers but we are just going to police stronger and better.
Some departments find community policing hard to implement. Have you also encountered that in Chula Vista?
I would not say that it has been hard to implement but it is a philosophy that has to come from the top down. You have to make sure that you continue to focus on it. If you don't engage the community, at certain times, you will separate and there won't be as much relationship building. When we go out and we do community forums, we were closely with people in the community to hear their concerns. It is eye-opening because what impacts an officer, they are focused on the big crimes. Often times, when you ask an officer what affects them at home in your neighborhood, they will tell you speeding cars, graffiti, abandoned vehicles. Those are the same things that impact our community. We have to learn to empathize and realize that we will catch those bank robbery suspects were those violent criminals but we also have to deal with the quality of life issues that impact our community.
San Diego police have had a difficult time retaining officers over the years. Is that a problem for Chula Vista?
Retaining them is not difficult but the problem right now is that we are going through a phase where we have a lot of attrition for people are retiring. The only time that we lose officers is when they make a decision. Shiftwork is very difficult. They might at some point decide that they want to be an investigator at the District Attorney's office. That is the only time we normally lose our officers. Right now, it is a different world. Part of my job is going to be to make sure people understand how great this job is so they want to be a part of it. It is the best job in the world.
Tell us about what you mean, a different world.
We have had situations where family members have been scared for their officers to go out in the field. It can cause some stress on a husband or a wife for example. We had an officer that quit after a short period of time after just getting through the Academy. He said it was too much on his family. They were too worried. San Diego County, this was the first time that I recently saw the impact of an officer ambush and -- in the loss of officer Deguzman from San Diego PD. Having him live in our community impacted us more. It became real to officers. It is devastating what we saw happen in Dallas and these other locations. To see that officers are actually targeted, these officers are the ones who run into the danger situation and put their cells on the front line. To now think that somebody is targeting officers has made it difficult for us. I talked to a couple of Marines. You would think that they would be very interested in law enforcement based upon what they do. They said why would I want to go into law enforcement when there is so much negativity? People are targeting cops. We have some work to do to show the other side of law enforcement. It is an amazing job. It is a job where you go every day and something different happens. You get a chance to impact people's lives. Sometimes arresting them is impacting their life in a positive manner cause a changes them.
The incoming Trump administration is reportedly considering empowering local police departments to enforce immigration laws. Several California police departments said they will not take part in that. What is Chula Vista's stand on the?
We have a very strong policy in terms of immigration status. It is not about someone's immigration status that is important to us. We are not the immigration patrol. That is something that has to be dealt with from the federal side. We are dealing with things in Chula Vista in a manner that we deal with people with dignity and respect. Your status in your immigration status has no bearing on what we are dealing with. If you are following the law, you will not have any issues with Chula Vista. If you are breaking the law as would be expected with anyone, you will have issues. When it comes to people that are dealing with serious violent crimes, at that point, immigration would be involved with it. Otherwise, you will not have to worry about it. We don't pull people out of cars because they are illegal. That has no bearing for us.
Do you see the Chula Vista Police Department, the Chula Vista city Council resisting any pressure that might come from Washington to step up that kind of immigration policing?
We had an informal policy right now that we all abide by. I can't speak for the city Council. I can't speak for any of the city with the decisions that will be made. I know that in Chula Vista, our police department is doing the right thing. We treat people with dignity and respect your it does not matter your immigration status. It matters whether or not we are keeping Chula Vista safe. If you are committing crimes, you will have issues with the police department. Any citizen would want us to address a series -- serious violent individual.
Roxana Kennedy becomes the 24th chief of police tomorrow. Thank you so much for speaking with us.