This post has been updated.

We have a great panel lined up Tuesday night to discuss the future of the San Diego Police Department. It starts at 6 p.m. at Cherokee Point Elementary in City Heights.

Here are four of the biggest questions that we’ll tackle:

Does SDPD have a bunch of rotten apples or a rotten barrel?

In recent years, roughly 15 officers have been arrested or otherwise accused of serious misconduct issues ranging from DUIs to sexual assault.

City police and legal officials have said these are rogue officers who the department roots out when they’re discovered. But attorneys for a SDPD sexual misconduct victim argue the department has a culture that allows problem officers to escape punishment.

A federal judge ruled earlier this month there’s evidence of a code of silence in the department.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

What kind of oversight does the department need?

SDPD has invited the U.S. Department of Justice to review its handling of misconduct cases and other policies. Some police accountability experts say an independent monitor should implement changes.

Currently, SDPD also has a citizens review board, which examines police internal investigations.

How big of a problem is officer recruitment and retention?

In the next four years, about half the 1,800-member police force is eligible to retire. Not only that, in California it’s easy for cops to move to other departments offering higher pay and benefits. What would a dramatic turnover in officers mean for public safety in the city, and what can be done about it?

The department is proposing a lot of reforms to deal with all this stuff. Will they work?

Aside from the DOJ review, new Chief Shelley Zimmerman wants to:

reinstate an internal anti-corruption unit;

• outfit all patrol officers with body cameras;

• create a mandatory reporting policy for officers aware of misconduct issues involving their peers; and

• restart data collection efforts to monitor racial profiling.

Last year, the city allocated $2 million for an officer retention package. In his new budget, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is proposing to put more than $3 million toward officer pay hikes and also increase the size of police academies, according to U-T San Diego.

Here’s the final roster for the panel:

• City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who has the defended SDPD against lawsuits from police misconduct victims

• Joshua Chanin, a public affairs professor at San Diego State University and an expert in police accountability

• Johanna Schiavoni, an attorney and president of Lawyers Club of San Diego, which advocates for the advancement of women in law and society

• Jim Herrera, vice chairman of the San Diego Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices

And one final reason to come to the panel: Delicioso Food Truck will be there. The event is free with preferred seating for VOSD members.

Update: ACLU San Diego’s Margaret Dooley-Sammuli is no longer attending.

    This article relates to: News, Police, Police Misconduct, Police Retention, Public Safety, Share, VOSD

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

    4 comments
    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    The lack of any people of color on last night's panel was glaring. Representative of a key problem in our City leadership, connecting with communities of color.

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    I am glad I attended last night and thank VOSD for getting 2 people on the panel who were VERY insightful and articulate about what needs to be done:

    Joshua Chanin, a public affairs professor at San Diego State University and an expert in police accountability

    Johanna Schiavoni, an attorney and president of Lawyers Club of San Diego, which advocates for the advancement of women in law and society

    City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was an apologist and rationalizer of the status quo all night. Struck me that he is our local version of Donald Rumsfeld, so aptly portrayed as a soulless charmer by documentarian Errol Morris in his new film.

    Jim Herrera, Vice Chair of the Citizens Review Board, came across as a hapless stooge of the SDPD, Goldsmith and the powers that be who never want real change, just to appease those calling for it.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    Fifteen “arrests and accusations” over several years, even assuming every accusation is legitimate, is less than one in a hundred in trouble, hardly a “rotten barrel”.  According to the 2014 approved budget, there are about 1950 sworn personnel authorized, including management and detectives, plus 65 in parking enforcement and 8 in police code compliance. They all have some public contact, so any of these people could be the subject of complaints.

    I don’t think the alleged “code of silence” amounts to Omerta, and I would wager it’s present to some extent in EVERY police department.  Your life can depend on the support of a fellow officer.  Internal Affairs assignments are not sought out by officers in any department.  

    I’m not a present or past cop, and I certainly think the review of misconduct allegations should be vigorous, and the powers of the police review board should be reviewed for adequacy, but this department has a reservoir of good will in almost all communities within the city.  If carried out, the measures Chief Zimmerman plans seem to me to be adequate.  There is hardly a crisis of confidence among the citizenry, despite Jim Jones‘ opinions.   

    Recruitment is the major challenge for a number of reasons.