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San Diego County law enforcement agencies: who does what and where

Some law enforcement agencies have overlapping jurisdiction, and many have “mutual aid” agreements that allow them to work in different cities.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Laws in San Diego County are enforced by multiple law enforcement agencies. Some have overlapping jurisdiction, and many have “mutual aid” agreements that allow them to work in different cities.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department can enforce laws anywhere in San Diego County. However, it primarily services the unincorporated portions of the county and cities where it is contracted to act as a police department. Those tasked with enforcing the laws for the agency are called deputies, not officers. It is overseen by Sheriff Bill Gore, who is an elected official.

Within the contract cities of Del Mar, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Poway, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach and Vista, deputies provide all law enforcement services. This includes patrolling streets, traffic control and investigations.

In unincorporated areas, the sheriff’s department only patrols and conducts investigations. Traffic duties are primarily handled by the California Highway Patrol, but deputies can, and do, assist.

Deputies are also responsible for county buildings. This includes the County Administration Building, county courthouses and county jails.

San Diego Police Department

The San Diego Police Department is responsible for patrolling, investigating and traffic control only within the city of San Diego. Laws are enforced by officers. The department is overseen by Chief David Nisleit, who is appointed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and was confirmed by the San Diego City Council.

How San Diego law enforcement agencies work together during protests

Most agencies provide mutual aid to each other when needed.

For example, on Saturday, California Highway Patrol responded when protestors began marching on Interstate-8. La Mesa Police oversaw the enforcement of laws on city streets and received assistance from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department because it acts within the entire county.

On Sunday, the San Diego Police Department oversaw a rally on downtown streets near the Hall of Justice. Federal officers from the Department of Homeland Security stood watch over federal courthouses. SDPD later declared the protest an “unlawful assembly.”

When the protest moved to Waterfront Park, deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department became the lead agency because the County Administration Building is within their primary jurisdiction. Harbor Police, who work for Port of San Diego and patrol the Embarcadero, provided mutual aid, as did officers from other agencies. Deputies also declared this protest an “unlawful assembly.”

Protestors then moved back to downtown streets, prompting the San Diego Police Department to later declare it a second “unlawful assembly.”

While different law enforcement agencies have different jurisdictions where they act as the primary agency, most work together to share resources and knowledge.

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