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Feds To Investigate Misconduct By San Diego Police Officers

Evening Edition
Audio

Aired 3/25/14

Federal and local agencies are conducting investigations into charges of police misconduct in the San Diego Police Department.

Federal officials and the San Diego City Attorney's Office are conducting investigations into charges of police misconduct in the San Diego Police Department.

The Department of Justice will be reviewing about 15 cases of misconduct documented over a three-year period to determine the cause of the problem plaguing the police force in one of the nation's safest cities.

Former Police Chief William Lansdowne requested the outside review before he retired last month. Shelley Zimmerman was appointed earlier this month to replace Lansdowne. She, along with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and Mayor Kevin Faulconer, invited the Department of Justice to conduct the probe.

At a news conference Monday, Zimmerman said the public has a right to expect the best from those who wear the badge.

“It take years of hard work to build the trust of our community and in just seconds that trust can start to erode away,” Zimmerman said.

The Justice Deprtment's office of Community Oriented Policing Services will conduct the six- to eight-month audit at no cost to the city. The assessment could cost as much as $250,000, said Ron Davis, COPS director.

Davis, who will oversee the investigation, said it can serve as a model for other police departments.

“Our process will be transparent and the assessment will be available publicly to foster accountability and provide guidance to the over 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S.,” Davis said.

Zimmerman said some officers recently have discredited the Police Department.

“Unfortunately, over these last few years, some of our officers have made the terrible decision to discredit our badge and dishonor our noble profession,” she said.

San Diego police officers have been accused of sexual misconduct while on the job, along with racial profiling and other charges.

"We believe every rock should be turned over," Goldsmith said. "If crimes were committed in addition to those already prosecuted, perpetrators should be brought to justice."

Among the most prominent cases has been the conviction of Anthony Arevalos in 2011 for eliciting sexual favors from women he stopped on traffic violations. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but a judge last month overturned two of those charges, including sexual battery, and Arevalos will be resentenced.

A second San Diego police officer resigned last month after being charged with sexually assaulting four women in his patrol car. Another was under internal investigation after he was accused of exposing himself to women he had arrested.

Goldsmith said he also wants to ensure the public is kept informed about the investigation proceedings.

“We know that there’s going to be information sought and maybe subpoenas, and we don’t want the community and the media to be confused as to what’s going on,” Goldsmith said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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