Editor's Note: This story has been updated to remove the name of an officer who was accused of rape but never charged.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Police Chief William Lansdowne apologized on behalf of his department today for a recent spate of officer-misconduct cases. He pledged to do everything possible to regain the public's confidence and "repair the damage done."
SAN DIEGO Nine San Diego police officers have been accused of misconduct in the past three months. Now the Police Chief is apologizing for the incidents.
The accusations against the officers range from drunk driving to sexual assault to domestic violence. Police Chief William Lansdowne said he is taking steps to put a stop to the alarming, inexcusable behavior.
“I want to personally apologize to every citizen of the city of San Diego, as this behavior is not expected nor condoned by me or anyone else in this San Diego police department,” he said.
But the chief had trouble explaining why there have been so many misconduct cases in a short period.
“There have been many suggestions that it may be stress … it might be because of all the publicity about pensions, and greedy city employees,” he said. “But I’m here today as the chief to tell you, at the end of the day there is no excuse at all for the conduct of the officers.”
Lansdowne said the department is beginning a seven-step program to prevent further cases. It includes conducting wellness assessments of officers and reviewing use of force training and tactics. The department is also beefing up its Internal Affairs Department, conducting ethics training and setting up a confidential complaint hotline to help combat the problem. The SDPD's command staff believes the plan will help restore the police department's image which, the chief said, has been "tarnished" by the series of cases involving alleged officer misconduct.
The police department is dealing with recruitment and attrition issues. Lansdowne said 300 officers have left in the past few years and that he loses five officers a month through attrition. Because of budget cuts the department has not had a police academy to train new recruits in eight months, though one is planned for this summer. But Lansdowne acknowledges that the officers accused in the misconduct cases are not rookies.
“It is seasoned officers,” he said. “And they’re officers with good records within the San Diego Police Department.” Lansdowne said he hopes the program his staff will begin to implement will address the problem and prevent future misconduct cases.
The latest allegations against an SDPD officer came to light Monday, when the department acknowledged the arrest of William Johnson, a 12-year veteran, on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in the South Bay.
Johnson was off-duty when he was taken into custody by Chula Vista police about midnight Saturday, following a collision that left another motorist with minor injuries. He will work a desk assignment pending the outcome of the case.
Last week, SDPD officials announced that an internal investigation was under way into whether a patrolman used excessive force while arresting an allegedly drunk and combative man outside a North Park nightspot.
The officer, whose name has been withheld, was one of three San Diego police officers who struggled to subdue 38-year-old Shawn Allen McPherren in front of the Alibi bar late on the night of May 1, SDPD Executive Assistant Chief David Ramirez said.
A witness captured the arrest with his cellphone camera and later contacted television stations, which aired the images.
The footage shows the uniformed personnel crouching around McPherren, who was prone on a sidewalk, grappling with him while one of the officers apparently punched him forcefully in the midsection or arms a half-dozen times.
The following day, an SDPD motorcycle patrolman pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence and hit-and-run allegations in connection with an off-duty Feb. 22 traffic accident on Murray Ridge Road in Serra Mesa. Officer David Hall, 41, faces up to three years and eight months in prison if convicted of the charges.
In late April, a judge ordered San Diego police Sgt. Kenneth H. Davis, 47, to stand trial on one count of stalking a fellow officer he had dated and three counts of making harassing telephone calls to her. Davis, a 23-year department veteran, could serve up to three years in prison if found guilty of the allegations, which came to light in February.
On April 11, an SDPD patrolman was involved in an off-duty dispute during which he allegedly assaulted a 17-year-old neighbor boy he caught smoking marijuana. The officer, a Mira Mesa resident whose name has not been released, has been transferred to desk duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation and a concurrent review by the District Attorney's Office, said SDPD Lt. Andra Brown, a department spokeswoman.
In March, a 42-year-old vice officer with the department, resigned amid accusations of raping a Point Loma Nazarene University student at an El Cajon home. He has not been charged in the case, which remains under investigation.
On March 11, San Diego police Officer Anthony Arevalos, 40, was arrested after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her following a traffic stop in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Four other women subsequently came forward and made similar allegations against Arevalos, who has pleaded not guilty to 18 felony counts, including sexual battery, false imprisonment, assault under color of authority and receiving a bribe.
On March 24, San Diego police Officer Roel Tungcab was arrested by sheriff's deputies in the aftermath of a fight with his wife at their Imperial Beach home. Tungcab, 39, faces misdemeanor domestic violence charges.
On March 29, an SDPD officer was recorded wrestling with an allegedly inebriated and disruptive soccer fan at Qualcomm Stadium.
The 49-second recording, posted on YouTube the following day, shows the officer on the floor of a stadium concourse, struggling to subdue 27-year-old David Rangel of San Diego.
The officer, whose name has not been released, at times used an arm to put Rangel in a chokehold from behind and finally shoved his head onto the concrete, causing a loud smacking sound when the side of the suspect's face and the palm of his hand hit the floor.
Police officials opened an internal probe into the arrest, which occurred during a Mexico-Venezuela soccer game.