LA MESA, Calif. (KGTV) — La Mesa's police chief will retire after more than five years in the role and following unrest over the police department's policing tactics.
Chief Walt Vasquez announced Thursday that he will retire effective Aug. 27. LMPD says Vasquez delayed his retirement when the coronavirus hit in mid-March in order to continue serving through the pandemic.
"Over the past five years, our team has worked very hard to keep the citizens of La Mesa safe. The decrease in property and violent crimes in the City from 2015 to 2019 has been the largest decrease of all incorporated cities in San Diego County," Vasquez said in a statement. "This is extraordinary, especially when you take into consideration that the La Mesa Police Department is one of the lower staffed departments in the County. Crime decreases of this nature are only achieved through hard work and collaboration with the citizens we serve."
Vasquez most recently was top cop after a controversial arrest video surfaced, showing a Black man, Amaurie Johnson, being shoved into a sitting position and arrested by a white cop. The cop that was at the center of that video is no longer employed by the city. Johnson has since filed a lawsuit against the city and the officers involved.
Following the arrest, and on the heels of nationwide calls for police reform, a protest outside of La Mesa Police Department on May 30 saw a 59-year-old woman shot in the face by a bean bag round during the demonstration and hospitalized, bringing the department's response tactics into question. An investigation into that incident and the officer involved is still being conducted.
As calls for police reform continued locally and across the nation, the department followed other law enforcement agencies and banned the carotid restraint technique.
Prior to his role in La Mesa, Vasquez started his career in the San Diego Police Department in 1986. He achieved the rank of Assistant Chief before being sworn in as La Mesa's Chief in 2015.
Vasquez also served on the Board of Directors of San Diego Youth Services for more than 10 years and has served on the Board of Directors of San Diego’s Trauma Intervention Program since 2018. He was also appointed in 2016 by then-Governor Jerry Brown to serve on The POST Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.