San Diego police and city officials dedicated a new police substation Friday in the heart of Southeast San Diego, where criticism of police practices has become increasingly vocal in recent weeks.
City Councilman William Jones said he hoped the station and a park to be built around it would bring the police closer to the community.
"This is a symbol of what we can do together," Jones, who represents the area, said of the neighborhood's involvement in choosing the station site and planning the surrounding Skyview Neighborhood Park.
The dedication came the morning after an emotional 2 1/2-hour meeting at Lincoln High School, where some of the department's critics demanded that an independent citizens' review board be established to investigate complaints of police misconduct.
The meeting was organized by the Committee for Police Excellence in response to increasing complaints from the black community since the March 31 shooting death of Police Officer Thomas E. Riggs. Some witnesses to the shooting have alleged that Riggs' accused killer, Sagon Penn, was provoked by policeman Donovan J. Jacobs during a traffic stop and was beaten by Riggs and Jacobs.
The Rev. Robert C. Ard, co-chairman of the committee and a moderate critic of the police, echoed Jones' hope that the new station would improve the department's relationship with the minority community.
"There will be kids out here playing (in the park), and they'll see police at work, coming and going," Ard said. "There's got to be some positive interaction."
The station, a low, brick and stucco building with few windows, replaces a temporary structure in the 7000 block of Skyline Drive, near Morse High School. The temporary station, built in 1981, will be removed beginning next week after the staff of 155 police move to the new building.
Later this summer, work will begin on the seven-acre park, to include a basketball court, barbecue areas, a children's play area and an open lawn. The land now is an unused, weed-covered lot.
The permanent Southeastern substation is the second to be completed since the city began a program to decentralize police services in the late 1970s. The Western substation, on Gaines Street in the western end of Mission Valley, opened in July.