SDPD policies allowed misconduct to go undetected for years, report finds

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SAN DIEGO -- A U.S. Justice Department probe into officer misconduct at the San Diego Police Department found gaps in policies on officer misconduct, a lack of consistent supervision and a failure to hold employees accountable.

“We know the truth hurts and people may have to now sit and listen that there was lack of supervision, lack of leadership," said Ron Davis, director of the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Davis added that the lack of supervision  allowed officer misconduct to occur and go undetected for years.

Report: Findings of Assessment of San Diego Police Department

Davis said the investigation focused on 17 cases of misconduct.

“On one hand, we found that the 17 cases were not linked to any particular behavior or one item, but we did find some areas that are definitely in need of improvement, or deficiencies,'' Davis said at a news conference Tuesday to announce the findings.

The report cited in part, four incidents where officers were accused of sexual assault, two cases of officers driving under the influence and three cases where internal cover-ups were attempted to be made.

“I think the thing that stood out for us was the failure of leadership on small issues,'' Davis said. “Like anything else, failure on small issues leads to big issues.''

Davis, whose report includes 40 recommendations, and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said the SDPD has already implemented some corrective measures.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and SDPD Chiefs Shelley Zimmerman and her predecessor, William Lansdowne, asked for the probe about a year ago, following a series of arrests of officers for various violations.

Among them:

  • Anthony Arevalos was convicted of demanding sexual favors from women stopped for suspected drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter;
  • Christopher Hays pleaded guilty to groping and illegally detaining four women while on duty; and
  • husband-and-wife officers Bryce and Jennifer Charpentier admitted to breaking into people's homes to steal prescription painkillers to feed their drug habits.
  • Other officers were arrested for drunken driving, domestic assault and indecent exposure.

City leaders asked for the federal investigation and for recommendations to improve local policing and public safety efforts with the goal of restoring public confidence in the SDPD.

“This is a report that I welcome as mayor of the city of San Diego,'' Faulconer said. “The good news for San Diegans is that this department is making significant progress on virtually every single one of these items.''

He said when he became mayor, it was critical to restore confidence in both the city government and its police department, the reputation of which was sullied by a small number of people.

To fix many of the department's flaws, the report recommends focusing on problems related to officer recruitment, supervision, training, accountability, early intervention and community partnerships.

“We do this because we do not have to just meet the bar, we want to constantly raise the bar," said chief Zimmerman. “I will implement any recommendation brought forward."

All San Diegans are invited to look at the report, he said.

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