San Diego paid out almost $278,000 for security for Trump's border wall build

San Diego paid $278,000 for overtime, supplies and services for city police assigned to patrol the area where workers from six companies labored to build prototypes for President Trump’s promised border wall last fall.

Records show that the city paid $227,500 in overtime between Sept 26. and Oct. 26 — the monthlong period when the prototype structures ordered by Trump were constructed on a patch of ground near the border on Otay Mesa.

Additional costs included $5,778 for meals, $10,603 for audio equipment, $14,152 for tactical equipment and $19,817 for ammunition.

The breakdown of costs, provided in response to a request under the California Public Records Act, push the known outlay by local agencies that provided law enforcement services in the area to at least $389,000.

That includes $111,000 that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department — which also provided patrols and other services — said earlier that it spent for miles of chain link fencing that ringed the area around the building site. The fencing blocked off large sections of private lands and what the county said was sensitive wildlife habitat.

In addition to the supplies and overtime, the city spent $548,446 on salaries and benefits for officers who were already scheduled to be on duty and were reassigned to the wall project, said city spokesman José Ysea.

Assuming the average police officer pay and benefits cost about $100,000 a year, that means the effort employed some 60 to 70 officers for a month.

An accounting that includes the cost of those officers — even though they would have been working anyway — would bring the total city expense on prototype protection to $826,000.

Details on some of the expenses — such as what kind and how much ammunition was purchased, what kind of audio equipment, and the meals expenses — were not provided.

San Diego City Council member Georgette Gomez, who sponsored a resolution condemning the wall project before construction began, sharply criticized the cost to the city for what she called “a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“The city should not have spent a dime on protecting the prototypes when we face recruitment and retention problems and our communities are left vulnerable,” she said by email. “This is simply unacceptable.”

The city probably won’t be reimbursed by the federal government for the expenses it incurred, Ysea said.

“There is no vehicle that we are aware of that would allow the San Diego Police Department to be reimbursed for these expenditures, however we are exploring our options,” he said by email.

Local agencies were put on alert in the weeks before the project was to begin. A security memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned of the potential for large-scale protests — potentially violent — from opponents of the wall and Trump’s immigration crackdown.

Local law enforcement officials met with federal officials in advance of the start of construction. In the first few days after work began Sept. 26, police presence in the area was heavy.

The city and county also banned parking on streets in a business park that was the closest developed area to the site for a month. Officers were stationed at the lone entryway to the construction site.

All the preparations were for naught, however. No rallies, demonstrators, marchers or protest signs appeared during the four largely uneventful weeks of construction.

The most frequent visitors to the site were media crews — local, state and even international — who were shuttled out to the building site by Customs and Border Protection media officers nearly every day.

The eight walls — four made of concrete, and four of other materials — were selected from hundreds of companies that submitted designs to the government last year. Each wall cost between $300,000 and $500,000.

Testing is expected to take up to two months. For now, the walls remain standing on Otay Mesa. The government has not said if the walls, each 30 feet long and up to 30 feet high, will remain at the site or be removed in the long term.

greg.moran@sduniontribune.com

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