If you were to ask someone what their dream job is, chances are they wouldn’t mention the profession they’re already in. That is, as long as you don’t ask Mike Hastings. The 20-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, who has served as a patrol officer and homicide detective throughout his career, has recently been promoted to lieutenant of the Northern Division. And he can’t think of anything else he’d rather be doing.
Hastings’ career with the SDPD actually began in the Northern Division in 1994. Now with a wealth of experience under his belt, Hastings looks forward to continuing to serve the community that helped build the career he loves.
La Jolla Patch sat down with Hastings to learn more about his experiences, his plans for the Northern Division and his favorite things about La Jolla.
La Jolla Patch: How did you feel when you were promoted to lieutenant?
Mike Hastings: My personal feeling was joy when I was promoted. It was kind of the feeling of ‘did this really happen?’ And then you get here and the incredible people who are here welcome you, and it’s the greatest job in the world.
The promotion process within the department is a tough process. It's not just one thing that you can be good at and get promoted. The process itself is done by an outside agency, and there's a written test and an oral board that you go to. The oral boards are made up of outside agencies also. Once those two items are completed, then they add a ratio in for your seniority, and then the list goes up on whose certified, and then you’re promoted from there. So its takes a lot to get promoted, you have to really want it.
La Jolla Patch: You have been a police officer for nearly 20 years, what has changed for you since becoming lieutenant?
Hastings: Not doing the work, but actually being the manager of the work. And that really is a learning curve in itself, where you have to direct for the work to be done. Instead of, ya know, my first reaction is "this needs to be done, go do it." You just cant do that in police work. For example, I've been on 18 years, and whose better at answering a radio call right now, myself or a patrol officers whose been on 5 or 6 years? Probably a patrol officer has a pretty good idea about what they're doing. They are the experts in their areas. It's about putting the pieces together and putting the experts in the areas where I need them to get the job done.
And I'll be honest with you, the reason why this is probably the best command is that we have the best patrol officers. Arguably within the United States, we have a great mixture of senior officers, junior officers and then in between. Everyone works with each other and learns from each other, and that’s the best thing.
La Jolla Patch: What do you like most about being a part of the San Diego Police Department?
Hastings: I never know what I'm going to be doing everyday. Now it’s a little more stabilized because I'm in an administrative position. But I'll tell you, when I got to the Northern Division, this was my very first assignment after I got out of the academy, so sometimes I sit here in my lieutenant car and I think to myself 'this is amazing,' because I was just here responding to radio calls, 18 years ago.
It's so incredible sometimes you have to pinch yourself. It really is an honor to be an officer. We're so big and there's so many things going on, and so many things we respond to. It really is the best job in the world, so I recommend it to anyone.
La Jolla Patch: Do you have any specific goals that you want to accomplish as lieutenant?
Hastings: My main goal as a cop is prevention. That’s really my focus, regardless of what the job is. Whether it’s a protest - it is to prevent people from getting injured and to allow them their rights to free speech. Whether it's Garnet Avenue (in Pacific Beach) - it is to prevent people from being injured and prevent crimes from happening before they occur. How do we do that? Well we have to be out there, be boots on the ground, identify problems before they occur. That’s really what my vision is - prevention.
There are some other things that I'd like to do in the beach area. However, we have probably some of the strongest community members in San Diego - in Pacific Beach and Mission Beach and La Jolla. We have incredible people who are very dedicated to their communities. And the amount of time that they volunteer to these communities is second to none. It is truly amazing. And so we have to be careful and make sure that our priorities are their priorities.
We work for everyone, every citizen is who I work for. What I think is important, may not be important to the community. I have to make sure they mirror each other and then I can prioritize from there.
La Jolla Patch: How do you plan on fostering that communication with citizens?
Hastings: Our community is unique because my phone number is given out at almost every community meeting that I go to, and we go to a lot of meetings. We have a community relations officer, Omar Sinclair in the Northern Division, and his job is basically a liaison with the community. So as I talked about, I have a lot of different pieces, it's kind of a big puzzle and Omar is a huge part of that puzzle to communicate to me what is going on in the community. Even though I may not personally be at every community meeting, I’m still getting feedback about what’s going on and I can align our priorities.
La Jolla Patch: How do you deal with criticism from the community?
Hastings: There is always going to be criticism. All that I can do is make sure that I do the right thing, and make sure that my officers do the right thing. You learn what type of employee you have by when your back is turned and the right thing happens. There is a lot to say about that, particularly in police work. The senior supervisors who I have - their interest in the community is not any sort of personal agenda. They are all about the community, I don’t want it to sound too cliche, but we’re nothing without the community.
If we’re not partnered with them, bad things happen. I just think we have a unique relationship in all of San Diego with community members. I've worked a lot of different assignments and our communities here are really second to none.
La Jolla Patch: What has been the toughest part of your new position?
Hastings: The toughest thing for me is being everywhere at once. For example, I have patrol that I'm responsible for, I have supervisors that I'm responsible for, I have beach teams I'm responsible for, I have a community that I'm response for, and I have a captain that I'm responsible to. And so the toughest thing for me is trying to be everywhere at once. As hard as you try, you just can't do it. So you try to mitigate that by using as many resources as possible. And that’s the biggest hurdle for me - making sure that we take care of everyone’s concerns.
La Jolla Patch: Can you recall a particular incident that made you realize you belonged as a police officer?
Hastings: You know I think that every officer who has been on a few years has been to a few radio calls where they reflect back and say, 'I did my part that night.' I don’t think there is any one particular incident, but I think every radio call really shapes and molds our officers. For the majority of calls that we go to, you’ve got to remember the life of a patrol officer, they have to be kind of like a doctor of general medicine. They have to know a little bit about everything because the radio calls that we go to span the spectrum of human life. You have no idea what you’re going to be going to, and what you have to deal with. I think every radio call helps molds a police officer, although there are critical incidents that occur, I think they build on every call that they go to.
La Jolla Patch: As lieutenant of the Northern Division, you'll be seeing a lot of La Jolla. What is your favorite thing to do in La Jolla?
Hastings: I live in North County, so I don’t really come down when I'm off. When I'm working though, I don't think there is a spot along the coast of La Jolla that isn’t just absolutely beautiful. I've got to tell you that I go to radio calls sometimes, and when I get out of my car I just look at the ocean, and I just cant believe how beautiful it is. It still is after all these years, unbelievable.