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San Diego Police Chief Promises More Diverse Force, More Supervision

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Photo by Nicholas McVicker

San Diego police officers stand in a line revealing a patch on the right shoulder of their uniforms in this undated photo.

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Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman told City Council members Wednesday that her department has implemented 21 out of 40 recommendations so far that came out of a federal audit in March after a spate of San Diego police misconduct.

The San Diego Police Department is more than half way done with a list of recommendations made by a federal audit after a spate of San Diego police misconduct.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman told the city's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee Wednesday that her department has implemented 21 out of 40 recommendations that came out of a federal audit in March.

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U.S. Department of Justice report on SDPD

U.S. Department of Justice report on SDPD

U.S. Department of Justice report on SDPD

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Zimmerman and city leaders called in the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent auditing agency contracted by the U.S. Department of Justice, following a string of high-profile misconduct cases. The agency made recommendations for the department, including improving supervision in the department and increasing diversity among sworn officers.

PERF reviewed 17 cases, including repeated sexual assaults by former officer Anthony Arevalos, and found supervisors "allowed misconduct to occur and go undetected for some time.”

The department will increase the ranks of 10 supervising sergeants this fall and boost their training in officer discipline, Zimmerman said. She said the next police academy class could be 60 percent minority or women, which will boost diversity. She also said the department is doing a community satisfaction survey.

Another challenge in holding officers accountable was poor communication between the department and the Citizens' Review Board on Police Practices, a volunteer board that takes and investigates citizen complaints against officers.

Both groups are now sharing information via computer software.

In May, Zimmerman said the department checked 15 recommendations off its list, and now is finished with six more. City Councilman Todd Gloria asked how elected officials will monitor the police department’s progress.

"How do we measure if you’re hitting your marks, how can we tell if enough of your officers have been trained, if that's actually being retained, can you help us out on what we should be looking for to make sure we’re actually holding you accountable to actually implementing these things appropriately?" Gloria asked.

"At the last update it was said we were developing the program for what the training would look like," Zimmerman responded. "We've come back now in less than three months and said, 'this is what the training looks like,' we just gave you a presentation on it, and it starts Monday."

City Councilman Chris Cate asked Zimmerman how much money the police department was spending responding to the audit recommendations. Zimmerman said so far the department has been "able to absorb the cost," but that it may require extra for marketing and to advertise job openings.

“But we’re not there yet,” she said.

Gloria asked Zimmerman to let the City Council know how much the police department was spending on its response to the audit, even if the costs remained within the department's current budget.

He also asked when the department would be finished with the final 19 recommendations.

"Very shortly," Zimmerman said.

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