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Grand Jury: San Diego County Waterfront Park's Security Cost Needs Review

People cool off at Waterfront Park in front of the San Diego County administration building, March 16, 2015.
Megan Burks
People cool off at Waterfront Park in front of the San Diego County administration building, March 16, 2015.

Costs for security are excessive at the county's year-old Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego and should be reviewed by an independent security expert, the county grand jury reported Wednesday.

Security at the park outside the County Administration Center cost $2.3 million in the year since it opened in May 2014, the grand jury said. A team of a dozen sheriff's deputies is needed to ensure that at least two uniformed officers are on patrol round-the-clock, according to the panel.

The grand jury said more security staff is brought on during operating hours. Additional security personnel work inside the county building.

"In a review of the incident logs and research of other parks, the grand jury found that incidents at the park appeared to be no different from those recorded elsewhere in the county and at parks in other parts of the country with less security," the report said. "None of the parks investigated nor any of the other county parks had sworn officers assigned full time."

The grand jury said that those charged with managing the Waterfront Park were asked to create a security program that would allow families to visit the park with assurances as to their safety.

However, there was no evidence that county officials investigated the level of security used at other cities with similar public facilities when developing the security plan for the Waterfront Park, the panel found.

County spokesman Mike Workman told City News Service the budget would be reduced for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and that the grand jury has been advised.

"This is an urban park in an urban setting," Workman said. "Security is needed to protect the patrons of the park as well as the park itself. We are confident that the San Diego County sheriff is well qualified to determine the level of security needed."

The grand jury said in its report that it heard from a senior county official who said the costs would be reviewed in time for the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but was told by a second county official that such a review wouldn't take place until fall.

While Workman said the new figure for security costs at the park was not available, the county's proposed 2015-16 budget for the Sheriff's Department says 11 staff positions are being added for security at the park and the County Administration Center — an addition that will be offset by a reduction of three community service officer positions.

However, the document also says that changing park security from temporary to permanent assignments is one of several elements leading to $3.3 million reduction in salary adjustments.

The Board of Supervisors has until Aug. 11 to provide a response to the grand jury.