Each has a unique story of how they chose police work as a vocation. Hesselgesser’s first job was as a cashier in a drugstore, where a guy kept coming in and stealing liquor. One day, Hesselgesser decided to chase the thief around the block, caught him and police arrested the criminal. Hesselgesser also lived next door to a canine officer, who took him on ride-alongs. He said he found his niche in police work.
On the other hand, Cedrun confessed to a practical reason, admitting it wasn’t as exciting as Hesselgesser’s story. She left a career in real estate and sought a stable job with health benefits and retirement plans. In her witty fashion, she said: “It sounded like an awfully fun job, to be paid to be nosey and go where no one else goes,” she laughed. “At 30, it was a financial decision.”
Certainly, the communities of U.C., La Jolla, Clairemont, Bay Ho and Bay Park have benefitted from having these outstanding police officers protecting and serving their neighborhoods.
Police work is unlike any other job and truly “good cops” are on duty 24/7, hypervigilant to what is going on. In this writer’s opinion, what has been going on in San Diego is media overkill about the few bad apples in the police force.
The normally smiling lieutenant got serious when asked about recent negative press about alleged criminal acts by police.
“I grieve when I hear about misconduct allegations, from patrol officers to captains. You hope it’s not true. The department is full of human beings, flawed at times, just like other human beings. The media paints with a broad brush and it is painful. All of the police officers I know are hard-working and dedicated to serving the public. Not much grace is given to us by the media ... no balance ... all bad. I see all good when I look around Northern Division and other divisions ... the silent marchers. We don’t do this work for the praise, but we have made lots of deposits. Now we need withdrawals from the public in the form of understanding. I feel it dishonors the badge we proudly wear when officers break the law.”
Hesselgesser chimed in.
“The public perception of the investigative process for accused police officers is more so than for the general public because it is law enforcement. Be patient,” he said. “Let the process work through. Give the benefit of a doubt.”
Cedrun said the internal investigations officers are all supervisors. They check on the situations involving alleged crimes among police officers.
“You look at the facts,” said Hesselgesser. “No bias is involved, only evidence. Then a Citizen Review Board reviews the findings based on evidence.”
With the sudden departure of Police Chief William Lansdowne and the installation of Shelley Zimmerman as the new chief, both Cedrun and Hesselgesser weighed in on this decision to elevate Zimmerman to chief of police with enthusiasm. Hesselgesser said he considers Zimmerman a friend.
“She has a lot of roots at Northern Division as a lieutenant and captain here. I was proud to work with her,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
“She is brilliant, with the sharpest edge of her ethics in her 31 years on the force,” Cedrun said. “She does right when no one is looking.
“What Chief Lansdowne did to keep the crime down with so little resources was amazing,” she said. “He also said that it falls on him when police break the law and he decided to step down.”
Hesselgesser has been at Northern for 20 years. He likes the idea of serving in many capacities.
“It’s a different challenge every day,” he said. “The best part of my job is taking all my experience and helping people where things may fall through the crack for them. I can match them with the right people.”
He deals with 150-200 emails a week, while Cedrun gets around 700 a week. Of that number,
60 percent have some work attached to them. She is committed to the community and makes herself available, as does Hesselgesser.
Cedrun has spent her 20 years in many different areas of police work.
“I see myself as coach and mentor,” she said. “I can share from having the big picture of the organization, passing forward my experience since I have moved every couple of years. While Larry has a niche that is needed with his 20 years at Northern that gives him a stable schedule, I go wherever the department needs me. For example, if border crime is an issue and I’m bilingual, I am sent there.”
Both Cedrun and Hesselgesser said they admired former Northern Division police Capt. Brian Ahern, but now they have Capt. Jerry Hara.
”We have won the lotto,” Cedrun said. “He was both a patrol officer and seargeant at Northern and is the kindest, servant leader around.”
There are only 12 captains in the San Diego Police Department. Funding this year will allow for eight police service officers and investigators, who will assist patrols, cold cases and home break-ins so patrol officers can pursue crimes in progress.
Cedrun celebrated her first anniversary at Northern on March 15. She said she loves being here and divides her duties into thirds: community, administration and patrol.
“Officer Hesselgesser is omni-present,”Cedrun said.
Both put in long hours but are not complainers.
University City’s population is 49,000, second to Mira Mesa in size. U.C. Neighborhood Watch is a success story. U.C. had the largest group at National Night Out in the summer.
Hesselgesser said the average citizen is thinking what they are going to do, while police think about the possibility of criminal activity.
“I enjoy teaching people how to make a house safe, why it is critical to lock outside gates, and use lighting to ward off crimes,” he said.
As the interview winds down, Cedrun promised, “We will never spin things. We are transparent, honest. I will always tell you the truth.”
Since Zimmerman will only serve for four years due to her being part of the DROP program that has her due to retire in four years, it would be wise to have Cedrun groomed to follow in Zimmerman’s footsteps. Why spend money and time looking across the country when you have the talent and ability in one officer whose star is rising and why not make Lt. Cedrun the second woman in a row to lead San Diego’s police force and maybe start a trend. Officer Hesselgesser would probably endorse this idea.