Border wall security cost San Diego County sheriff nearly $900,000

During the 30 days the border wall prototypes were being built, there were no protests or demonstrations, and no one was arrested.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images )

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department incurred nearly $900,000 in added costs to provide patrols and security during the month-long construction of eight border wall prototypes by the federal government on Otay Mesa, records show.

Those costs pushed the total law enforcement expenses for the project to more than $1 million.

Most of the expense for the Sheriff’s Department came in overtime pay for deputies: $764,278. But overtime wasn’t the only expense for the county, which patrolled the area between Sept. 26 and Oct. 26 near where the prototype walls were constructed.

Other costs were:


  • $118,092.66 for miles of chain-link fencing, K-rail barriers and signs installed before the construction of prototypes began. The fencing wrapped around large parcels of private property on Otay Mesa. The county said it was needed to protect environmentally sensitive habitats in the event that large-scale protests against the project materialized.
  • $11,101 for services and supplies.
  • $4,470 for an environmental consultant and permits.

Adding it all up, the county paid out $897,942.22 in overtime, supplies, consultant and permit costs for the project. With the $715,000 in regular wages that would have been paid to the deputies working the border project detail, the total comes to $1.6 million.
The costs to the county, provided under a California Public Records Act request by the San Diego Union-Tribune, far exceed the costs to the city of San Diego, which also had police patrolling near the building site.

The city paid out $277,898 in overtime, services and supplies. It paid out another $548,446 in regular salaries and fringe benefits to officers scheduled to be on duty anyway and re-assigned to the border project. That brought the city’s total expenses to $826,345.

Adding the overtime, supplies and other non-salary costs for the two agencies together shows that the city and county spent $1,175,840 for security for the border wall project.


The city said it is unlikely it will be reimbursed, though it is exploring options. Alex Bell, a spokeswoman for the county, could not say whether it would be reimbursed.

The prototypes were constructed on a small plot of federal land on Otay Mesa, a stone’s throw from the border with Mexico. As the first tangible examples of President Trump’s centerpiece promise to construct a “big, beautiful wall” on the southwest border, the project was the subject of national and international interest.

In the weeks before the work began, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo to local law enforcement, warning of the possibility of large-scale protests that could turn violent.

The county took that to heart and developed security plans, Bell said.


“In the current environment of social-media-driven events and ‘pop-up’ demonstrations, the Sheriff’s Department evaluated the need to staff law enforcement in sufficient numbers during the initial phases of the border wall prototype construction,” Bell said in an email that accompanied release of the data.

There were no protests or demonstrations during the 30 days of construction, and no one was arrested at or near the site.

Nonetheless, Bell said the county planning and precautions were worth it.

“We are convinced that this uniformed presence coupled with the temporary fencing eliminated any inclination by individuals interested in establishing encampments … as well as polarizing demonstrations,” she said.


Moran writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.