Sheriff's Capt. Pete Callewaert has been at the helm of the Lemon Grove Station for five months now, having taken over when Capt. Gigi McCalla moved to the Personnel Division in early May.
A 24-year veteran of the department, Callewaert comes to the command with an extensive background in local law enforcement, as well as military experience. He was lieutenant of the Weapons Training Unit, having worked his way up through the ranks at several posts including the Santee and Vista stations, the Las Colinas, Vista and Central jails, the San Diego Regional Task Force, Special Investigations, In-Service Training, narcotics investigations in East County, and patrol beats in Vista and Fallbrook.
Prior to becoming a deputy, Callewaert served as an Army officer. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno, and holds a degree in criminal justice.
Patch spent a few minutes with the captain for a quick Q&A before he headed into a recent City Council meeting.
Patch: What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure in Lemon Grove?
Capt. Pete Callewaert: I hope to maximize what we have already. I want to implement intelligence led policing concepts through the station. I want to experiment with some shift assignments and some specialized assignments that will allow deputies to develop their skills. An example of this would be, right now we’ve got deputies who are assigned to patrol that we’ve pulled out of patrol and rotate through detective assignment, through gang suppression team assignment, through special purpose deputy assignment, so they can enhance their abilities and their skills and take that back with them when they go back to patrol and help them develop for future promotion or advanced assignments.
Patch: Do you feel like you have enough deputies?
Capt. Callewaert: I don’t think we’re ever going to have enough deputies. There’s never going to be enough police officers on the street to really make a major impact on crime. So we have to take what we have under the current fiscal conditions with the city, with the county and everything else. We have to work smarter with what we have.
That’s kind of what intelligence led policing is all about. Instead of randomly selecting cars to stop, instead of randomly using the patrol deputies’ free time—what little they have—we want to direct them to problem locations.
Patch: Is intelligence lead policing one of the things helping to identify hot spots in the city?
Capt. Callewaert: Yes. We already kind of know the high-crime areas. What we’re trying to do is drill those down to specific times, potential suspect MOs or descriptions that will help us focus. If we drive down the street and there are a hundred people driving up and down the street we want to try to research in advance, we want to try to identify which people we should contact, which cars we should stop, based on time, day, documented modus operandi, and other factors.
Patch: Where are the hot spots in Lemon Grove?
Capt. Callewaert: In the city of Lemon Grove there are several different hot spots based on time and day. Any place where there’s a low income base, any place that there is a high population housing basis are hot spots.
Commercial areas, 24-hour businesses, there’s no one particular hot spot. There are particular hot spots for particular days and particular times based on particular activities that are occurring in that neighborhood or in that commercial district.
Patch: So there’s no one place that worries you the most?
Capt. Callewaert: No.
Patch: You served as an Army officer. How did that experience influence you in being a sheriff’s captain?
Capt. Callewaert: It certainly helped me understand tactics and management of personnel and resources. My training in the military taught me how to prepare operational plans, how to look at the big picture on how the success of one small element impacts other elements, adjacent units, higher command, etc.
Patch: What has been your most memorable day on the job?
Capt. Callewaert: Probably an incident that occurred when I was a patrol sergeant in Vista in 2003 where a lone gunman with a shotgun ambushed a couple of CHP officers, and then ambushed one of my patrol deputies searching the area for him. The patrol deputy thankfully survived, but his canine partner, one of the best canines I’ve ever seen operate in the field, was killed. It was a massive incident.