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San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne Abruptly Retires

Above: San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne prepares to speak on KPBS's Midday Edition in February 2014.

Aired 2/26/14 on KPBS News.

San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne on Tuesday announced his retirement effective March 3.

San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne on Tuesday announced his retirement effective March 3.

Lansdowne was chief for more than 10 years. His department recently has been rocked with two sexual assault cases where officers were accused of inappropriately touching female suspects in custody.

Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer said Lansdowne's decision was "his and his alone; I told him I support it." Faulconer said he will make an announcement soon on how the chief will be replaced.

Lt. Kevin Mayer, a police department spokesman, said "no decisions have been made that I am aware of" about who will take over for Lansdowne.

Not long before Lansdowne's retirement was announced, former SDPD Officer Anthony Arevalos had the two most serious counts of sexual battery against him dropped in a case where Arevalos propositioned women being detained on suspicion of DUI in the Gaslamp Quarter.

According to a release from SDPD:

Although Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer did not ask for the Police Chief to resign, Chief Lansdowne felt it was time to do so. The Chief absolutely supports the new Mayor and believes in his vision and direction for the City.

This was a difficult decision for Chief Lansdowne to make as he considers San Diego his home and truly values the citizens of this city and the employees who work here.

San Diego interim Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement that Lansdowne's "hallmark calm demeanor helped get the San Diego Police Department and our city through challenging financial cutbacks."

Gloria added:

"(Lansdowne) remains a respected national expert on public safety. I’m grateful for his tremendous contributions to San Diego and wish him well in retirement... The City Council and I stand ready to help the Mayor-Elect ensure the San Diego Police Department has stable leadership and continues to be America's Finest."

Lansdowne spoke with KPBS Midday Edition last week, and was asked whether it was time for him to step down as police chief.

Aired 2/25/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

SDPD Chief William Lansdowne is asked on KPBS Midday Edition on Feb. 25, 2014 about his retirement plans.

"I'm an at-will employee, I've always been an at-will employee for 20 years, that decision rests solely with the mayor of the city of San Diego," he said.

"I would certainly abide by his wishes, but it doesn't matter who's the chief of police, there's always going to be misconduct, you wouldn't have an internal affairs system. But I believe we've aggressively taken care of all of the issues that came to the San Diego Police Department in a professional and fair manner."

Gene Iredale, a lawyer who's sued the police department several times, including for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of two African American residents in City Heights, said he's always been impressed with Lansdowne for his sincerity, honesty and attempts to be transparent and responsive.

"I also feel badly for him, because he's had bad luck in a certain sense in that some of the people in his department didn't share his commitment to public service and the values of decency and honesty and treating the public as they should be treated," he said. "Unfortunately, he's paying the price for scandals that occurred during his tenure, and I don't know that he's entirely responsible for them."

Iredale said he does not think a new police chief will "have any magical effect on dealing with problems that may be deeply entrenched in the culture of the institution."

He added that he does not think Faulconer "will propose a candidate for the job who will do a better job than Lansdowne."

Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, also applauded Lansdowne for his responsiveness, but renewed the civil rights group's call for an audit of the police department.

"We commend the Chief for his years of service to our city and for his immediate and serious response to recent allegations of officer misconduct and racial profiling. As he retires, we urge the City Council and our new mayor-elect to follow through on the Chief's call for an independent audit of the San Diego Police Department.

Civil rights and civil liberties do not need to be sacrificed in the name of public safety. The San Diego Police Department will be more effective at keeping our city safe when the public knows that officers are held accountable and cannot act with impunity.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is committed to working with City Hall and the Department's new leadership to ensure that our city’s police force serves and protects all San Diegans."

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said in a statement that Lansdowne has had a long and distinguished career. He added:

"He has led the department through one of the most difficult fiscal times in the city's history and enjoyed many years of reduced crime through his leadership and foresight.

"In my 44 years in law enforcement, I have never been associated with anyone who worked harder or gave more of himself than Bill Lansdowne.

"I believe Chief Lansdowne has positioned the San Diego Police Department — one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country — in a good place, by requesting an outside audit. This will ensure the public's confidence in the fine men and women who work so hard to keep San Diego safe."

Evening Edition

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Avatar for user 'simonthegreat'

simonthegreat | February 25, 2014 at 5:53 p.m. ― 3 years ago

How much did Falcnor get from the Mexican developer to fire the chief? It's amazing that the same day the Mexican developer posts five million bond to get out of jail, our police chief gets the pink slip. At least Falcnor could have waited a week or so as not to make it so obvious. But again, San Diego voters are not that ........

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Avatar for user 'mlthal'

mlthal | February 25, 2014 at 6:24 p.m. ― 3 years ago

"It was a decision the Chief and I discussed."

TRANSLATION: I made it clear to the Chief what my preference was. But I wanted to allow him to save face by allowing him to (pretend) that the decision was his alone.

This was too abrupt and just a little too close to the new Mayor taking office for the timing to have been a coincidence.

Is it just me, or does Mayor Elect Kevin Faulconer sound a little too much like a veteran politician with his well rehearsed answers to the media?

I want him to succeed. But he strikes me as a little too much like an old fashioned pol likely to engage in city matters that are not totally transparent. I hope I can learn to trust him.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | February 26, 2014 at 6:45 a.m. ― 3 years ago

"San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said in a statement that Lansdowne has had a long and distinguished career." - " Civil rights and civil liberties do not need to be sacrificed in the name of public safety. "

This is the guy who ordered the arrest of people registering voters in front of City Hall.

This is the guy who ordered the forced midnight attack on peaceful protesters in 2011.

Yea, real defender of civil rights.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | February 26, 2014 at 7:44 a.m. ― 3 years ago

good thing gov. employees can resign when things get tough.

in the private sector ( real world) the boss has to see things through .

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Avatar for user 'Fil'

Fil | February 26, 2014 at 11:28 a.m. ― 3 years ago

What about the extortion from towing companies like Road One, Angelo's Towing and some others? What about the stalking practices, and criminal drug dealing infiltration in to the security companies like G4S, Public Safety, Securitas, Elite and many, many others? Our working families suffers when we can not live in peace we can not take our children to a play ground in a park where are dogs (pitbulls) without slashes, misterious smokers around our children, or we can not go to church due to cars without plates with strange people waiting for us, then we get a ticket because we have a light that the officer says that 'does not work' and misteriously the cables of polarity are changed, but we can not probe that in court and we have to pay fines with money that should be to feed our children for those legal extortions in the name of 'security' ... Security for whom? ... for the legal stalkers?... This is the first step if somebody with this position is not applying the law against those security and towing companies, the second step is an independent investigation that leads charges against any corrupt police that are in concordance with those security comercial stalkers... I wish we will see a profound clean up inside not only in the SDPD but into the whole police organization in the entire San Diego County. :)

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | February 26, 2014 at 12:12 p.m. ― 3 years ago


at times it seems more like stand by and observe that enforcement

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 26, 2014 at 12:16 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Fil, you are schizophrenic. You need to be taking anti-psychotics. Your delusions are out of control... you really think someone is switching the polarity around on your cars light bulbs? By the way, this would not make the light stop working unless it was an LED light.

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Avatar for user 'Fil'

Fil | February 26, 2014 at 2:03 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Jean Marc if you are a PHD I really appreciate your free diagnosis, when we called the police several times about those companies around our families and children, not only me but several people in our church noticed that, we talked with the police officers in front of our church deacons, we presented witnesses, we paid for legal representation even our resources are limited, and all our community ask why the police do not investigate those companies and why our children continue to being exposed to those estrange smokers at public parks and at our apartments and close to our homes? What is this about? ... Authorized criminals?... I really welcome an independent and full investigation including about those 'psycologists' :)

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 26, 2014 at 2:14 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Faulconer is already emboiled in scandal and his butt isn't even in the mayor's chair yet.

Hang on San Diego, it's going to be a bumpy ride the next few years.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | February 26, 2014 at 2:36 p.m. ― 3 years ago

someone should tell Faulconer he already won the election, no need to make more pie in the sky promises

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 26, 2014 at 3:16 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Fil what the heck are you talking about when you say "strange smokers" really that is just nuts. You actually called the police and said there are weird people smoking cigarettes at the park and you believe they are stalking you? Maybe they are reptilian, you should tell the police that.

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Avatar for user 'Fil'

Fil | February 26, 2014 at 3:32 p.m. ― 3 years ago

JeanMarc ...being diagnosed by you is funny... I think you a looking at you in a mirror... I am sorry but it seems to me that you live in 'Wonderland' ... Hello somebody can explain JeanMarc the tactics employed by those people? :)

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 26, 2014 at 3:53 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Thank you Fil, I also would like to join in asking for others to educate me... surely there must be other people who know about strange men smoking in parks who stalk children and reverse the polarity of the light sockets on cars. Yes, I am sure there are several other people who can confirm this and I will humbly apologize for doubting you.

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Avatar for user 'Fil'

Fil | February 26, 2014 at 4:04 p.m. ― 3 years ago

You can start looking for information about how much money it is collected from big towing companies from traffic related incidents...the case of 'I stop you because one of your rear lights does not work' is so famous... but I want to be clear that not all the police is involved in those practices, I think they are few but the problem is that our community trust in our authority erodes by such practices... Have a nice evening JeanMarc :)

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 26, 2014 at 4:39 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Ok, I know that towing companies are a racket. But what about these strange smokers? That is what I am really curious about... and stalkers... I would like to know more about these.

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Avatar for user 'Fil'

Fil | February 26, 2014 at 6:08 p.m. ― 3 years ago

It is a tactic used by private security companies using strange person that visit your work place or company in order to give you a sense of insecurity, then they start doing strange things to get noticed like smoking close to you or close your family, the wen if you are a business owner you call those security companies asking them for protection, it is the same if you are a home owner, usually they use profanity, estrange cloths, smoke or wait for you in from at your home. If you called the police they said that you insulted them an that they are 'monitoring' you... our privacy laws in California make it so difficult to defend yourself in court against those stalkers, people like me, low income working families simply do not have the money to pay for lawyers and investigators... then if the local police do nothing, maybe other police force like th FBI could help if our civil rights are violated by those security companies :)

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 27, 2014 at 9:44 a.m. ― 3 years ago

If i thought the Feds were going to investigate me, i'd resign too.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 27, 2014 at 9:47 a.m. ― 3 years ago

@mithal, but WE the voters knew that before Feb 19! At least with Alvarez we would have new blood!

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 27, 2014 at 10:54 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Fil I am sorry but I really believe you are a paranoid schizophrenic and you are living in a delusion... I have heard schizophrenics say very similar things to what you are saying now. You might want to tell a psychologist about your theories on these smoking men and stalkers.

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Avatar for user 'Fil'

Fil | February 27, 2014 at 12:34 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Well JeanMarc, thank you again for your diagnosis and I will wait for a full investigation results, and again I wish this investigation include those denial 'psycologists'... have a wonderful day :)

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