New police captain to use experience, community input to see ‘big picture’ of public safety in La Jolla

San Diego Police Capt. Erwin Manansala says he's glad to return to the department's Northern Division.
San Diego Police Capt. Erwin Manansala says he’s glad to return to the department’s Northern Division.
(Provided by Erwin Manansala)

The San Diego Police Department’s Northern Division has a new captain in Erwin Manansala, who was promoted to the role Sept. 17. The Division oversees La Jolla, Bay Ho, Clairemont Mesa, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, University City and more.

Manansala is a San Diego native who graduated from San Diego State University after serving with the U.S. Marine Corps and has more than 18 years in the police department.

Below, he answers La Jolla Light’s questions about his service and priorities for La Jolla.

Q: You were a patrol officer and a lieutenant in Northern Division years ago. How does it feel to return here?

A: “It feels good. It’s very familiar, considering I started my career off here, right out of the police academy. Every time I got promoted, they sent me back here [sergeant, lieutenant and captain], so I’m very familiar with community and the different dynamics between the inland service area and the coastal areas. I’m glad to be here.”

Q: How is Northern Division — and La Jolla — different from other areas you’ve served?

A: “One of the biggest [differences] I’ve seen is the involvement of the community out here [on] the public safety front, with very active neighborhood watch groups out here and very active on [the neighborhood-based social media app] Nextdoor. I’ve worked various divisions and assignments all over the city, but I have not seen the activity and the buy-in like in La Jolla and the beach communities in general. That’s a good thing, because it helps us when the community is proactive about seeing suspicious things or bringing public safety items to our attention.”

Q: How else can La Jollans help improve public safety?

A: “Especially with the holidays coming … we get a lot of package theft, or just suspicious people going into neighborhoods, looking for targets of opportunity, whether it’s somebody that leaves their purse or laptop bag on the front seat of their car while they’re shopping or something like that. Anyone that has [doorbell camera] video or good descriptors of suspicious activity, please send it to Northern Division Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift [] and then we can disseminate that information … and try to be proactive.”

Q: What are your goals for Northern Division as its new captain?

A: “My goal is just continuing the momentum that we have [and the] open communication we have with communities out here, particularly the community groups and the neighborhood watch groups. … The other thing I’d like to do is try new and innovative ways to distribute our resources in the most efficient way possible. I know staffing has always been an issue with Northern [Division] in particular and [I want] to be able to offer appropriate services to the communities that we serve in a good, timely manner.”

Q: What are you most excited for in this role?

A: “I’m excited to be … working with the great people and officers that we have in the division. We have a young department, so I’m excited to impart knowledge to them and be able to mentor the officers that we have here. I’m [also] excited to be back here [to] work with a lot of familiar faces that I’ve worked with over the years.”

Q: What are you most proud of in your previous experience that will transfer to Northern Division?

A: “I’ve been blessed to work a wide variety of assignments throughout my career. I’ve worked on SWAT teams, I’ve worked internal affairs. … I think it’s just a culmination of all those things that helped me collectively become a better leader and be able to look at things big picture, not just relegated to just one aspect, but how are things affecting the community [and] the politics, policy and the line-level officers out there in the field.”

Q: What priorities established by previous division Capt. Scott Wahl, who transferred to operational support, will remain?

A: “It’s the same priorities from … our department as a whole: preservation of life and [prevention of] violent crime. … That’s the ultimate barometer of how successful and how effective we’re being. … That’s what the police are there for: to protect people. Second to that is property crime and … maintaining those lines of communication with our community and being able to provide excellent police service.”

Q: Do you expect any changes or shifts in priorities?

A: “That’s a little early to tell at this point. … Within the last two weeks, I have met a lot of community members [and] leaders in general and different segments of the beach areas have different priorities. It’s just about balancing those priorities and deploying our resources to effectively address those things.”

Located at 4275 Eastgate Mall, Northern Division can be reached at (858) 552-1700.◆