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Funding for the police department makes up 43% of the city’s overall budget. Courtesy photo
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Hundreds of Escondido residents comment on police budget

ESCONDIDO – Amid ongoing nationwide protests and a growing movement to defund the police, Escondido City Council received almost 400 public comments at its June 10 budget meeting, regarding the city’s $45.6 million police department budget.

The council opened a public hearing on its fiscal year 2020-21 budget proposal, which received so many comments that Mayor Paul McNamara had to recess the meeting and reconvene it the following day.

Funding for the police department makes up 43% of the city’s overall budget, although it was noted that the city cut $1.8 million from the police department budget this year compared to last year.

The majority of comments from Escondido residents criticized the need for such a large police budget and called for defunding the department.

The defunding campaign is a movement that has been around for decades but was reignited after recent incidents of police brutality. It supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-police forms of public safety, such as social services and other community resources.

Escondido Chief of Police Ed Varso, who was at the council meeting, pointed out that the Escondido Police Department was one of the first agencies in the county to participate in the Psychological Emergency Response Team (PERT), a program that partners police officers with psychiatric clinicians to work together to assess mentally ill individuals.

“When we’re responding to calls in our community, we have more than just a law enforcement response, we also have a clinical response that works in partnership with us so that we’re not only able to provide the safety element, but also the resources and services necessary to help that person that’s in crisis,” Varso said.

He added that the department is working toward getting all of its police officers through additional training in crisis-intervention techniques.

The overwhelming push from residents to defund the police reflects a nationwide outcry sparked by the recent deaths of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville police. Protests and demonstrations in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement continue in cities across the U.S., including Escondido.

Residents also called for the police department to adopt the “8 Can’t Wait” program, a list of eight policies that supporters believe can be implemented by police departments to avoid police brutality incidents during arrests.

Varso said the department has been involved in that type of training and policy direction for quite some time, and the only policy that they hadn’t adopted until recently was the ban on the carotid restraint.

The council discussed several ideas such as police training, community engagement and budget transparency after the public comments were read before agreeing to discuss these items on future agendas.

Councilmember Olga Diaz and Mayor McNamara both said they had never seen a public response like this at a council meeting and urged future community input.

Deputy Mayor Consuelo Martinez acknowledged that, although it may have been too late in the budget approval process to implement the changes suggested by the community, she thinks the issue is an important one.

“We do have, in our country, a structural racism problem, and if we don’t see it, that’s an issue,” Martinez said. “We are a diverse community, and we must acknowledge that not everyone in our community has a positive relationship with law enforcement. Some communities live in fear.”

Councilmember Mike Morasco agreed that further discussions for police reform should be had, but said that he was “offended” by some of the public comments and assertions.

“This cry of systemic racism and brutalization of the police, it very well could be valid in other areas, but that’s not what we are seeing here,” Morasco said. “I don’t believe it’s a true reflection of our police.”

The council approved the budget 4-0.

10 comments

Ray Carney June 17, 2020 at 3:20 pm

The THREE AMIGO’s says “the community”, they must mean the criminal element. Escondido has been one of the safest communities in North County since I relocated here in 1986, I love Escondido and want it to remain a safe place to live. This nonsense sweeping the nation to “de-fund the police” come from the people who commit most of the crimes. Let’s look at Escondido crime. We have TWO known street gangs, These two gangs are Hispanic, I don’t see Black, Asian or Caucasian gangs. If you listen to a police scanner as I do, you can even download an app for your I Phone or Android for free if you don’t want to spend the money on a physical device, one thing I have noticed about the DECADES of listening, the crime traffic seems to resemble the menu at Alberto’s, sorry folks can’t change truth or re-write history. Se

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Jose Valle June 17, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Morasco must not live here in Escondido. EPD constantly harrasses the Latino community. They should make public the complaints against officers and the disciplinary actions that have been taken. There’s several officers that should not be public servants because they use their position to oppress the community instead of protecting it.

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Ray Carney June 17, 2020 at 3:39 pm

The THREE AMIGO’s says “the community”, they must mean the criminal element. Escondido has been one of the safest communities in North County since I relocated here in 1986, I love Escondido and want it to remain a safe place to live. This nonsense sweeping the nation to “de-fund the police” come from the people who commit most of the crimes. Let’s look at Escondido crime. We have TWO known street gangs, These two gangs are Hispanic, I don’t see Black, Asian or Caucasian gangs. If you listen to a police scanner as I do, you can even download an app for your I Phone or Android for free if you don’t want to spend the money on a physical device, one thing I have noticed about the DECADES of listening, the crime traffic seems to resemble the menu at Alberto’s, sorry folks can’t change truth or re-write history. Seems that 34% of our population commit 85% of the crimes, no wonder why they want the police de-funded, “bad for business”. Now let’s look at the areas where most of the crimes are committed, Seems those districts belong to Diaz and Martinez and are on the East End, once nice a decade ago are not worth living there, I call it the “chicken, goats and pigs area. Crime, gangs, drugs flourish there, I sold my house a decade ago because the neighborhood was changing and I didn’t want to take a loss, I got tired of bouncy castles, marichi music and engine blocks to kill my investment so I broke even, I now live on the West End and I rent because I have decided to move elsewhere, not California, I call that a term not used here often but back east is frequently used, “white flight”. So Mayor and City Council, don’t be stupid, remember recent events were a man trying to pass a funny twenty and one resisting arrest and taking a police officer’s weapon after being drunk with an extensive criminal record, don’t glorify criminals. Escondido is not Minnesota or Georgia, we are smarter than that, we don’t have to “bend knee” or “kiss butt” to the criminal element of society. Don’t de-fund our police, don’t turn Escondido into “just another barrio” keep Escondido a safe place for everyone to live.

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Ray Carney June 18, 2020 at 11:22 am

Jose:
\
Like I said, 34% commit 85% of the crime.

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Ray Carney June 18, 2020 at 11:23 am

Jose:

Like I said, 34% commit 85% of the crime.

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jdog June 18, 2020 at 4:22 pm

“The overwhelming push from residents to defund”

That is a lie. It is not overwhelming, If anything it less then 5% of the population of Escondido

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Ray Carney June 19, 2020 at 6:46 am

Jose:

Just tonight, a HISPANIC male trying to use a crowbar on an officer in the LAWFUL exercise of his duty got shot. I see it this way, we don’t need to re-train the police, re-train Blacks and Hispanics. Can’t have one set of laws for the rest of us and one just for them.

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Robert Robles June 19, 2020 at 8:32 am

Where are the statistics to back up the charge of structural racism? If journalists were doing there job they would find the statistics don’t back up the claims. For instance does anybody know there are 700 black on black murders for every one white police officer shooting an unarmed black man in 2019 per FBI statistics.

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Ray Carney June 21, 2020 at 9:05 am

Anyone check out the latest news from Chicago? Most killings since Capone in a single weekend. Guess where those killings took place? Ghettos and Barrios.

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Ray Carney June 21, 2020 at 12:52 pm

COAST NEWS: Nee to verify differently. Your emails come up as “junk mail”.

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