For San Diego Police Department Captain Tina Williams and Lt. Erwin Manansala, being posted at Northern Division is a homecoming. Each was promoted to their posts on Feb. 11, but both were acting in their positions beforehand. And both already have experience at the 4275 Eastgate Mall police station, which oversees La Jolla, Bay Ho, Clairemont Mesa, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, University City and more.
Williams said she became a police officer in 1994 and — in the course of her extensive rotation throughout the department — was stationed at Northern Division as a lieutenant for the inland areas. Her resume includes time in Southeastern, Eastern and Northern Divisions; with the gang units and SWAT teams; and positions such as patrol officer, sergeant, supervisor, detective sergeant, commanding officer and finally, captain.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a police officer,” the San Diego native said. “There wasn’t one particular moment that stands out. I just knew from a young age I wanted to be in law enforcement.
“I’m the first one in my family to serve, so it’s not like it was a family tradition. The biggest thing is that I’m helping the community and doing something different every day.”
For Manansala, who became a police officer in 2005, his first year on the job was at Northern Division, patrolling the beaches. He was then transferred to Central Division for six years. After that, he returned to Northern Division to patrol the inland communities, ran the Mid-City Crime Suppression Team, worked on investigations with the Internal Affairs Unit, and did a tour with the SWAT unit and Emergency Negotiations team. But when he was promoted to lieutenant last year, he again found himself back at Northern Division.
“Being a police officer was never something I thought about,” Manansala explained. “In college I was thinking about law school, but I was in the Marine Corps at the time. When the Towers fell (during the 9/11 terrorist attacks) we were called to active duty, so I was going to school at night while on duty in the Marines.
“So my grades weren’t exactly top tier to get into law school and I was debating what kind of career path I would take. A friend of mine’s father was a San Diego police officer and she told me she could see me as an officer, so I talked to her dad and took the test, went through the whole process. I got hired and fell in love with it.”
Now that they are here, both Williams and Manansala said they are ready to keep the “complex” areas of Northern Division safe, and are both advocates of community-assisted policing.
“In Northern Division, we have both inland communities and coastal communities and the inland residents have different concerns than the coastal residents,” Williams said.
“In the coastal areas, there’s an influx of tourists and part-time residents over the summer and holiday weekends. Any time you have that many people in one area, you’re going to have an increase in traffic congestion, people dumping trash and, unfortunately in the beach areas, people don’t always pay attention and they leave things in plain sight in their vehicles and things get stolen, which we get calls about.”
Between the police staff shortage and the large geographic area within Northern Division’s jurisdiction, officers cannot respond to every call, noted Manansala. “Our division is one of the largest in the City,” he said. “We encompass more than 41 square miles and we have over 220,000 residents to look after — and that’s not including the summer months when we have tourists.”
Williams added that having made the rounds at community advisory boards, she noticed that residents seem to think they should be cautious about calling the police — a perception she would like to see changed.
“It’s OK to contact us. Please contact us,” she said. “We believe if you see something, say something. Public safety is a shared responsibility. So if we never get that call, we never receive that information.
“Depending on how active the command is that day, sometimes things get prioritized lower … but for us at least we have that information. If we aren’t hearing it from the community, we have no way of knowing there’s something we should be keeping an eye on.”
In light of the short-staffing at San Diego’s police communication centers, which was deemed a near-emergency in late 2016 (with people reporting busy signals when they called 911 or the non-emergency line), Williams said the department has hired 40 new dispatchers. “Now the wait time for calls has met and exceeded national standards,” she said.
In addition to incident-specific calls, Williams and Manansala advocate for Neighborhood Watch programs as a resource for exchanging crime and safety information.
“We have some of the strongest and most active Neighborhood Watch programs from Clairemont to the beach communities, which is evidenced by people’s postings on nextdoor.com and their willingness to call in and report suspicious activities,” Manansala said. “This area’s Neighborhood Watch programs and the police have a great working partnership because they let us know about suspicious activities to give us a leg up on crime in the community. Whether it’s someone unfamiliar in the neighborhood, someone rummaging through trash, or an armed robbery in progress, our priority is public safety, serving the community and providing a better quality of life.”