Feds launch SDPD misconduct probe

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SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Justice Department review of the troubled San Diego Police Department is underway and will take about six to eight months to complete, federal officials said Monday.

It was also revealed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI are leading a criminal probe of the SDPD.

“We believe every rock should be turned over, and if — and I do emphasize if — crimes were committed in addition to those already prosecuted, perpetrators should be brought to justice,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who announced the criminal investigation.

SDPD Chief Shelley ZimmermanHe told reporters that the probe was “case specific,” but would not elaborate.

The audit of the police department, requested by recently retired Chief William Lansdowne, will be handled by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Division, U.S Attorney Laura Duffy said.

“The review itself will focus primarily on police misconduct overall, with an emphasis on sexual misconduct by on-duty officers,” Duffy said. “The process will include an examination of the police department’s hiring processes, the supervision of officers and the mechanisms that are in place to detect misconduct.”

She said investigators will interview officers, watch them in action and conduct research. The recommendations will be made public.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the COPS audit is about “ensuring public trust and confidence, and ensuring that our great men and women of the San Diego Police Department are always out there doing the right thing every single day and night.”

The investigation is an “absolutely necessary” step in rebuilding the police department, the mayor said.

Lansdowne’s successor as chief, Shelley Zimmerman, said the department has logged 15 cases of misconduct over the past several years.

“The recent allegations and proven instances of sexual misconduct by San Diego police officers are serious,” said Tony West, U.S. Associate Attorney General. “Not only have they created pain among the victims, these events sow distrust in anyone who has to think twice about seeking the assistance of, or cooperating with, a police officer.”

Those acts “cast a shadow of doubt” over all law-abiding officers, West said. “Our aim is to help identify the cause of the problem and, in so doing, facilitate reform here in San Diego.”

Ronald Davis, the head of the COPS program, said the $50,000 to $250,000 audit will not be come at no cost to the city.

Linda Workman, a lawyer for a woman identified only as Jane Doe, who is suing the city over the actions of convicted former Officer Anthony Arevalos, said the audit doesn’t go far enough — that an independent monitor should be appointed who has the authority to force change in the SDPD.

“This is too little too late for victims like Jane Doe who have had their lives ruined by SDPD misconduct,” Workman said. “Jane Doe wants to make sure that this never happens again in San Diego.”

The lawyer and city have not been able to agree on a damage award for the woman. A trial is set for July.

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