Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
San Diego Police Foundation, always filling in the gaps
The San Diego Police Foundation’s “Hearts of Gold” gala — named for the color of the badge police officers wear — celebrated those in uniform that dedicate their lives to making San Diego’s streets safer for the community. The San Diego Police Foundation (SDPF) commemorated its 20th anniversary with its 7th annual Gold Shield Gala at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on Sept. 20, all dedicated to preserving and maintaining the San Diego Police Department’s necessary equipment to keep its officers safer — as well as their K9 companion crimefighters.
This year, the Gala’s special charitable focus was the K9 Crimefighter Campaign, which funds all new police dogs as well as equipment and training to keep this unit at top performance. But the Foundation’s mission includes purchasing equipment, canines, emergency gear or anything that is needed for all in the SDPC that are not covered under city budget. Net proceeds of $285,000 will drive the mission of the SDPF’s mission in creating a safer San Diego.
Chief of Police David Nisleit said this gala is put together by Gala Chair Kristi Pieper and the SDPF to bridge that gap between the budget, providing safety equipment for the officers and assisting in other areas such as teaching kids internet security or the crime lab.
“I don’t even want to think where we would be without them,” Nisleit said. “When you look over the tenure, these dogs, all 39 that are in service were funded by the San Diego Police Foundation. Ballistic shields, plate carrier bags that give us that extra layer of protection against rifle fire, tourniquets, wraps, stuff for the crime lab; you name it. We wouldn’t be in a good place, we would be without a lot of equipment.”
Sara Napoli, San Diego Police Foundation president and CEO, said that the Foundation began 20 years ago, initiated by then police chief Jerry Sanders, in an effort to get the community together. She said since then, it has raised money for equipment, training and outreach not readily available from the city budget.
“So wherever that gap between what the city is able to provide and what the officers need, that’s where we go to work,” Napoli said.
Along with equipment needed by the officers, the Foundation has raised money for all of its K9 crimefighters since 2002. This program has been popular within the community. Napoli said SDPF had no need this year to call for donations for new dogs, but they gave the opportunity for donors to become an “instant hero” by using smaller donations to sponsor a dog that is already in service with the K9 unit. Donors that sponsored eligible canines that are now working had the chance to give the dog a nickname that appeared in the photo of the “adopted” dog, along with special unique trading cards.
“These dogs are athletic, beautiful creatures and they are life savers,” Napoli said. “Sometimes it’s a unique donor that pays for the canine, a big gift at $13,500 to fully cover it. Twelve of these donors are here tonight. However, many times the smaller donations go to one of our canine crimefighters. So since they don’t have a single champion or the chance of nicknaming them, tonight we are going to offer them that privilege.”
Napoli said the breed most popular with SDPD K9 Unit is the Belgium Malinois. They are extremely agile, and instead of German shepherds that lunge in an arc, the Malinois tend to launch straight ahead. In certain maneuvers, this behavior comes in very handy. “Pound for pound, they are extremely strong,” Napoli continued.
Napoli said that the SDPD is funded by city government, but why are all of these things not paid for?
“I wish it were, but the fact is with anything we care about, there is a gap. City parks, our schools, libraries and anything that creates community benefit, the community is asked to step in,” Napoli said. “[With the police shortage] we hope that this gets out that this is a noble profession. People that are called to protect and serve as both guardians and warriors are remarkable human beings. So we should encourage people to step up in this way. Another thing is just the morale boost of knowing that the community is behind you. We like to say that the one weapon that the criminals will never have is a community that stands behind them.”
—Albert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.