Updated with Video: Police ordered to ‘keep the peace’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool

San Diego Police Lt. Larry Hesselgesser and a park ranger monitor Children’s Pool beach for potential human conflicts and harassment of seals. Pat Sherman photos

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• VIDEO: To see the video of seals being harassed by two young women at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool beach in February 2013, click on the image above or go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d1VhkFbbkc

By Pat Sherman

Updated, 2:15 p.m. Feb. 20, 2013

In a move many are calling unnecessary and heavy-handed (but suddenly maybe not) San Diego Police officers began patrolling Children’s Pool beach Feb. 12 to “keep the peace” between those who want the shores reserved for seals, and those who want either shared use between seals, swimmers, divers and fishermen or prefer the seal colony be coaxed elsewhere.

Lt. Larry Hesselgesser with San Diego Police’s Northern Division, who monitored the beach with a park ranger Feb. 14, said police experienced no problems during their first week of surveillance, other than tourists getting too close to seals.

But a distressing incident over the weekend has forced police and the public to reassess the contentious situation at the Children’s Pool with perhaps greater support for the police presence.

Larry Wan, founder and Chairman of the Western Alliance for Nature, which oversees the new real-time, infrared “seal cam” installed at Children’s Pool beach Jan. 24 at Mayor Bob Filner’s request, released a video segment from the live streaming that shows two young women harassing the pregnant and nursing seals one night by “sitting on them, pulling their flippers, kicking them, flashing lights in their faces — until each and every one of them is driven off the beach,” said Wan. In the heartbreaking video, one woman is photographing the other during the altercation.

No arrests have been made in the incident. (The video can be viewed at the top of this webpage.)

Wan said the new “seal cam,” on average, gets more than 1,000 viewers each day from as far away as Russia and Iran.

A new sign posted February 2013 at La Jolla Children’s Pool beach by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asks visitors to remain at least 50 feet away from the seals at all times.

Northern Division Police Captain Brian Ahearn said police would monitor the beach, one officer at a time, for about two weeks — though they could stay longer if officers determine there is a need.

Ahearn said the officers would be there from the morning into the night to assure public safety and cite or arrest people who break laws, such as spitting on another person (a battery charge) or making criminal threats.

“There’s laws on the books for the protection of the animals as well,” Ahearn said, “officers have the discretion to enforce the law.”
He explained that the police department decided to place an officer at Children’s Pool due to a recent increase in reported incidents of bullying and intimidation between seal advocates and beach access proponents.

“Some people I think were fearful that it was going to escalate into physical violence against each other or the seals,” Ahearn said. “It’s a good time to make sure people understand that we’re not going to tolerate any kind of violent crime. We do this throughout other parts of the city to try to prevent an escalation.”

Though the conflagration at Children’s Pool has raged for at least a decade, Ahearn said he believes the recent spike in complaints is due to the installation of the web camera atop the condemned lifeguard tower, installed ostensibly so the international public can watch live seal births ’round the clock.

Though one officer told the Light and another source that the police presence was ordered by Mayor Filner, Ahearn maintained that it was a decision made by San Diego Police.

“I know with the new mayor there is a renewed emphasis on the Children’s Pool (activities), but I haven’t been ordered by the mayor to do this,” Ahearn said. “This is something the police department decided was the right thing to do … at the right time. I’m going to continue to deploy my officers out there and ultimately make a determination as to whether we’re still needed.”

A request for comment from the mayor’s office was not returned by Feb. 15, though during a press conference unveiling the webcam Filner said, “If we have somebody here, whether it’s a ranger or a police officer all the time until we settle this, that should be enforcement enough.”

La Jolla resident Suzanne Penn said she ultimately believes the beach is too polluted for use by humans — including her own young son — and should be reserved for seals.  However, given the installation of the webcam, Penn said the police presence is “a little bit much.”

Nancy Doyel, an educator visiting from Washington, also said the officer “seems like overkill. “I wouldn’t want that much surveillance,” she said. “It’s almost like big brother-ish with the cameras and police.”

Using binoculars to follow a school of yellowtail (or “big yellows” as he calls them), diver, surfer and spear-fisherman Andy Smith said he recognizes both the need to protect the seals and citizens’ legal right to access the beach.

“There’s a lot of idiots out there,” he said. “I mean, have some compassion. When there’s a female seal on the beach having a baby, you want to give it a little space because she’s going to freak out. That’s not rocket science.”

However, Smith said he thinks having a police officer stationed at Children’s Pool is “a waste of the taxpayers’ money. “There’s a lifeguard station right there,” he said. “Although it’s a distraction to have them dealing with altercations here, they’re badge-carrying guys. … I think the police officer can use his time better. Go catch a rapist or murderer — whatever — rather than sit here for god’s sakes.”

— Susan DeMaggio contributed to this report

• SEE THE UPDATE ABOUT THIS STORY:Mayor orders Children’s Pool in La Jolla closed after dark through May 15, 2013” at http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=103605

Related posts:

  1. Mayor shares details of recently installed ‘seal cam’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  2. UPDATED (Jan. 25): Webcam to monitor seals installed at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  3. Mayor extends length of pupping season rope at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  4. Coastal Commission to rule on year-round seal rope July 11
  5. Coastal Commission approves permit for year-round seal rope

Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=101799

Posted by Pat Sherman on Feb 15, 2013. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News, Seal Watch. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Comments for “Updated with Video: Police ordered to ‘keep the peace’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool”

  1. David Pierce

    So glad to here the Police will be on patrol keeping the peace as these “professional Harassers” from out of town continue to disrupt the peace from law abiding citizens right to share the beach and that Dr. Jane worked so hard to accomplish like sending one of their staff on a sabbatical.

  2. No, there is no sign posted telling people to be any 50′ from seals. Everything has been peaceful since APRL quit the sidewalk because we sold the same souvenirs as they but at lower prices. The Mayor needs to blame somebody for something so he can close the beach for a trumped up public safety issue. We beach access folks asked for decent protection for years and gave up. Now the police are used to make out there is a problem to be solved. It is an old tactic for squashing any civil rights activities. The spy camera was not producing the evidence they needed so 2 anti-access activists from out out town put on a performance for the sealcam to frame the opponents of beach closure.

  3. cyberKICK

    Who said the seals are to be coaxed away? Pat, it sounds like you are listening to one side, and not really looking at if objectively. The 2 sides are exclusive seal use only, and shared use. I have not found, or even heard of an “anti-seal” group. However, if shared use can’t work, then yea, I suppose you would need to remove the seals as you can’t close the beach. Shared use is the only way to keep the beach open (it is must be by law) and have seals. The only other choice is to shoo the seals away (not preferred). Please, help me identify an anti-seal group so that I might find out more about this position.

  4. Missy

    There are PLENTY of beaches in La Jolla for people to enjoy. I wish the beach at the children’s pool would be left to the seals once and for all and any access down to the beach removed. It’s unfortunate that there are such immature and ignorant people that would harass the seals, but obviously a rope and a few signs aren’t nearly enough to protect these beautiful animals. And for those of you that complain that the children’s pool was meant for families, I have no idea why any parent would want their child to play on a beach or swim in water with all of that animal waste.

  5. Hey, on that video, go back to second 00:10. In the corner if the screen you see besides the screen is the operator’s console for the camera. That means the screen was photographed in La Jolla where it is operated. And how does Wan know all the seals were driven off the beach if there is no wideangle showing that? This shows only one seal moving a few feet. Where is the video of them driving off many seals, or of the empty beach, that allowed Wan to make that statement?

    • Heidi

      Really the point is, how gross that anyone would perform these horrific actions for ANY reason! Who cares where it was filmed, how, or why for that matter. I just don’t understand people. Is it a matter of education or how they were raised? Isn’t it interesting that I care so much about these seals and I’m from Minnesota…We are all stewards of the planet.

  6. Looks like just a couple of drunk La Jolla teens with nothing constructive to do with their life. This is what happens when you have too much money and not enough parents.

  7. Jamie McCroskey

    Closing the beach wont keep bad people out just the opposite it will give these activist…. err… bad people privacy.
    Has a reward or request for information been posted to help identify these activists?

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