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La Mesa's new police chief says he's ready to 'reimagine policing'

Ray Sweeney la mesa police chief.png
Posted at 2:51 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 17:51:44-04

LA MESA, Calif. (KGTV) — Ray Sweeney has been La Mesa's police chief for just days now, but he's been with the department for 20 years.

"Humbled, extremely humbled to be able to step into this role and lead this department forward," said Sweeney.

Sweeney steps into the role after a series of controversial incidents last year, including the arrest of a black man by a La Mesa officer at a trolley station.

That officer was later fired. Protests connected to the interaction later devolved into riots and looting.

"I've experienced the need for change, I've lived through the need for change and I want to be a part of that," said Sweeney.

Some members of La Mesa's recently created Community Police Oversight Board have said they were hopeful an outside candidate would be brought in to fill the chief's role.

While Sweeney says he understands, he thinks time will show he was the right choice.

"When you have someone coming in from the outside it takes about a year for them to get to know the dynamics of everything and that's a slow process. I don't like slow processes. We have things to do, work that needs to get done," Sweeney said.

Sweeney has released a six point plan, that includes working closely with the oversight board and focusing on rebuilding public trust.

He says the plan also calls for more and ongoing training, "What we haven't done so well in the past and where we need to be to get officers aware of the fact that not everybody looks at the police as saviors and there's reasons for that."

The department currently has the budget to hire several more officers and Sweeney says he'll also be focusing on more diverse recruitment in hopes of creating a force that better reflects the community it serves.

"We have a lot to do but there's no doubt the men and women of the La Mesa department and the city are dedicated to moving forward and reimagining policing," said Sweeney.