Police Chief Bill Lansdowne resigned in the midst of snowballing controversies Tuesday but a chorus of local leaders responded by singing his praises.

City politicos, law enforcement leaders and even an attorney at the center of a major racial-profiling case against the Police Department focused on the good as word got out about Lansdowne’s March 3 resignation.

Lansdowne’s announcement follows several recent revelations of officer misconduct, a botched case against a disgraced former officers and a Voice of San Diego investigation that spurred community members to speak out about police racial profiling.

But you’d be forgiven for missing those details as local leaders spoke about Lansdowne Tuesday.

Incoming Mayor Kevin Faulconer began a hastily called Tuesday press conference with kind words for Lansdowne.

“I want to thank Chief William Lansdowne for his tireless efforts on behalf of the city, for his tireless efforts on behalf of the San Diego Police Department, which he loved so very, very much,” Faulconer said before reporters shouted out questions about exactly why Lansdowne resigned.

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

Faulconer, who will take office the same day Lansdowne’s resignation becomes effective, said the decision was Lansdowne’s alone.

“He has given his heart and soul for this city and I am very, very appreciative,” Faulconer said.

He only indirectly mentioned the department’s recent troubles in his statement, referring to it as “a difficult time.”

Other city leaders struck a similar tone.

Interim mayor Todd Gloria publicly thanked Lansdowne for his “exceptional service” and noted that the 69-year-old chief remains a respected law enforcement expert. He didn’t hint at the department’s recent struggles.

San Diego Police Officers Association President Brian Marvel dubbed him the right leader at the right time.

“While serving as chief for over 10 years, he navigated our department through both challenges and triumphs. He served our community proudly, and the San Diego Police Officers Association is grateful for his service,” Marvel said in a statement.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis passed along kudos too.

Then there was attorney Gene Iredale, who represented Dante Harrell, who sued the city after a 2010 traffic stop. The city settled the case for $450,000 in December.

Iredale wasn’t as flattering as other city leaders, but he did remember Lansdowne relatively warmly for someone whose client was dragged, tasered and arrested on the police chief’s watch.

“I feel badly for (Lansdowne), 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,” Iredale told KPBS. “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.”

    This article relates to: Community, Government, Kevin Faulconer, News, Police, Police Misconduct, Racial Profiling, San Diego Police, Share

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about San Diego city and county governments. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    "Scandals are an afterthought."

    That says a lot about our new mayor. So does his pimping Sea World in the middle of an orca controversy.

    This is not a mayor for the people. You chimps just elected another good ol' boy to continue in the tradition of good ol' mayors since Susan Golding, the mother of that ticket buy-back scam imposed on the city by the Chargers football team.

    What a shame that the mayor who could have saved San Diego from ongoing looting turned out to be a horndog! I had great hopes. Now all that is dashed and here's evidence.

    A horrible police chief's transgressions are ignored as his few virtues are touted by ...well, you can't call it the 'thin blue line,' but it is a power line that links chiefs to mayors and city attorneys.

    And they all think he did a swell job. Before leaving in disgrace, of course; not unlike the disgraced Sheriff Baca of LA County.

    So if Landsdown did such a great job, can we expect more of the same with aggressive policing and abuse of authority?

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    Lansdowne and Joe Paterno: see any similarities?


    Anthony Sandusky

    Ali Seaton
    Ali Seaton

    That's right Kevin, make them weed them out!!

    James Weber
    James Weber subscriber

    Have you ever been to  funeral where anyone said anything bad about the deceased?

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @James Weber  I have, and I was the one talking. Not afraid to mince words.

    Considering we have about 1800 cops and all the administrative support etc. I'd say we fared well considering year after year we kept cutting the budgets deeper and deeper. I believe the problems we've all seen in the last period are a result of resource shortages (i.e. for training, neighborhood community-officers, technology etc.), not lack of leadership. A police chief has little say in the final budget. They can't run out and cry for public support, nor can most department heads, and are largely working with the limited resources their cities can allow.

    I criticized these budget cuts many times, including in the public safety committee meetings and usually I didn't see any other civilians complaining to city leaders to give them more funding. If anything these problems are a result of our not ensuring they have all the tools they need. We can fix that but, encouraging our new mayor to proactively supply the new chief with the resources they'll need to address some chronic deficiencies. 

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @Jim Jones @Jerry Hall @James Weber  I'm not what may appear to be a shill for the SDPD because I don't know all the facts. Damning as some of the cases may be against individual officers, that can be corrected. In either case it's still a separate topic from the fact that we have critically under-resourced the PD. 

    That being said we have a whole bucket of worry coming soon when a lot of the top cops in SDPD are being forced to retire at the end of this fiscal year in June. There are many that would love to stay but, don't have a choice. If we let these officers go we're losing a huge brain trust, which will only pile on future challenges. 

    The next chief has their job cut out for them and will need our support. Looking forward, I really believe the SDPD we will get is the one the community stands behind. By that I mean it's our public safety department and if the city looks to the PD to cut corners, which they will inevitably do when we have to face another $70m+ round of cuts this year (I've read) and we're not there to back the cops then it seems to me we should accept that responsibility.

    If we're down at the budget meetings advocating to support the new chief with the resources it is clear to many we need, and the council decides to not support that, then we can use that information to make a more informed vote in November. This goes for all the public-safety budgets too especially including the fire department and lifeguards. 

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @Matt Finish Jim Jones - I think it's disingenuous to claim cops or police departments are bad because of a few bad apples in our PD, much less from around the nation. 

    Cops get vetted, are highly trained, are often pretty square people dropped in a bucket of crap and many are under enormous burdens psychologically and emotionally on a daily basis. This isn't all of them, it's not in all the areas but, they are rotated regularly and most all see crap, grief and even evil people and situations most of us couldn't handle for a couple of days. Then they get badgered by oftentimes privileged citizens because they reveal they are human too. 

    Sure, some cops bend or crack but, on the whole they're humans with authority over us if we break the law. Truthfully if I hear anyone speaking badly about PD, and judging only from my own experience, I believe that's often what pisses us off the most. 

    Once I got into some community volunteer commitments and began working from the larger perspective of a total community vs. just my own personal distastes or issues I have to say, all in all SDPD is a group of men and women that are dedicated to protecting us. That being said I live in a relatively gang-free middle-class area so I'm only speaking from my perspective.
    What I do know is the new Chief Zimmerman will absolutely do everything she can to continue the development of SDPD into one that is focused on communities and individuals. There are many SDPD just as dedicated as her, and we will lose many of them in June because of forced and irreversible cuts. Cuts I think we as a city are going to regret over the next several years. 

    You're saying money doesn't matter and I question that. You get the talent you pay for. You get the results you pay for. Shortcut on pay, training and resources and problems surface. 
    In the end, the only way a PD will work is if the community works with them. 
    I came from Detroit suburbs and you want to talk about a defunct PD? Head on down to the city and see if they come. Good luck. 

    So, I'm interested in seeing how Chief Zimmerman shores up and improves our PD over the next several years. 

    Matt Finish
    Matt Finish subscriber

    @Jerry Hall "I'm not what may appear to be a shill for the SDPD"

    Jerry, if you are not a paid shill, you could have fooled me. You deliver the same tired, trite, union talking points that have been repeated here and every other site ad-nauseam. They need more money! Too much is never enough! They protect us from anarchy! Save it.

    Might I suggest that if you are not getting paid for your comments, you definitely should look into getting a contract to do so. You could be getting paid for what you are now doing for free.

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @Matt Finish @Jerry Hall  I've been down to the public safety meetings of city council articulating my arguments as late as the last budget cycle. If you're cool with 10-15-20 minute response times when your life is in danger that's your choice. But, for me and what I believe are most residents, when we call 911 because we see someone's life or or own in danger, we expect them to come now.

    I will never advocate a blank check. I want crime to go down to zero. But, I am a realist too. Crime will happen. We need cops. Most of us believe career criminals should be jailed yet, I like many others do not believe they should serve excessive terms for trivial crimes... (which is another set of problems related to the judicial branches and our legal system - not an easy fix).

    I also advocate for open data. For public-safety it would be ideal to have access to non-sensitive staffing, funding and outcomes (stats) data so we as citizens can participate in the process of analyzing metrics, identifying what works and doesn't work, with the goal of truly understanding how much should go towards their budgets. We have computer now, we have intelligent contributors but, without the data we're forced to rely on what we are told. 

    Hopefully people can channel their anger towards SDPD into opportunities this new leadership will likely extend and learn more about the demands and constraints on our public-safety systems. 

    This isn't a us vs. them problem. The PD is an extension of the government led by the people we elect. We have to work together in an attitude of mutual respect. Some want a lot of well-resourced cops, others want balanced levels, others want none. If we all stand around with our arms crossed and unable to compromise then we all lose. 

    Maybe the thing to do is urge VOSD to continue this dialog, engage the new Chief Zimmerman to advocate for a more collaborative relationship, develop a sustainable accountability program backed by verifiable data and go from there?

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    I would've bet anything one thing would never come from my mouth. That being a big thank you to a police chief. Although I'm not proud of it I went from heckling police in the 90's to actually giving them a chance and trying to understand their perspective better. This transition is largely due to my getting involved in local community issues, many affecting public safety. I spent time trying to get to know the SDPD, asking a lot of questions, challenging a lot of beliefs and assumptions and taking some time to walk a mile in their shoes. 

    Bottom line is we can gripe all we want about cops but, the truth is they are the thin line between civility and anarchy. Sure, some cops surfaced to be problematic but, those were few and far between. Under the chief's leadership our PD has done an amazing job considering they are over 12% under-staffed, have seen dismal raises, gotten raises and then had them taken away, have seen recruits head through the academy then take off just after they graduate. All of these issues were not of the chief's making but, a result of the poor decisions made back in the 1990's by other leadership.

    From my perspective I believe Chief Lansdowne has done an amazing job with the limited resources San Diego was able to offer. I for one have a changed attitude about cops in general (well, except for motor cops lol... [I know, I know... we need them too]). I am grateful for Chief Lansdowne's leadership and his helping grow our PD into a world class department. I too look forward to his successor, who I truly hope is promoted from within existing SDPD leadership-ranks as we have exceptional dedicated candidates.

    Our next chief will have the benefit of hitting the ground running and at the end of the day building a world class police department and we owe this opportunity to Chief Lansdowne.

    Matt Finish
    Matt Finish subscriber

    @Jerry Hall What did you heckle the police for in the 1990s? Must have been a quaint time if all they deserved was a heckle.

    I'm curious what your attitude is about cops these days, since you say it's changed.

    How about the ones who beat Kelly Thomas' head bloody until he died in Fullerton?

    How about the ones who shot 100 rounds like drunk cowboys into the truck of two short women looking for Chris Dorner in a different color and make of car?

    How about the texas cops caught on tape finger raping women on the side of the road while looking for that ultimate evil, pot (which was never found)?

    How about the ones in New Mexico who forced a man to take multiple enemas and rectal penetrations to look for that almighty evil, drugs (when none were found)?

    How about the ones that recently killed a man in front of his wife in Oklahoma?

    How about the ones that beat David Silva in Kern County to death in front of his wife and 4 kids?

    How about the ones in King City who were just recently caught running an organized car theft ring, stealing from poor people then reselling the cars?

    How about the rampant abuse of civil forfeiture laws where cops routinely flat out rob people of their belongings on the side of the road?

    How about the Florida cop Sgt. German Bosque who has been fired 8 times yet the police union keeps getting him his job back?

    I could go on, and on, but you get the point. Your blatant refusal to admit that police departments across the country have a serious problem with their militant, steroided (look that one up too), shoot first attitude shows your willful blindness and your bias.

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @Matt Finish

    What a officer does in any other city or police/sheriff'/enforcement department around the nation is hardly reflective of all public-safety officers, nor SDPD alone. My bet is that cops commit less crimes than the average population. Expecting them to be perfect is unrealistic.

    Your blatant refusal to admit that police departments across the country have a serious problem with their militant, steroided (look that one up too), shoot first attitude shows your willful blindness and your bias." 

    I'd call that a bit of a generalized overstatement at best. I'm not sure how you gleaned that accusation from my posts but, your interpretation is just that. I could have easily, and have no problem doing so, written your post listing all of these crimes by bad cops. But, the point is that SDPD has improved significantly from the 1990's (I moved here in 90 so not sure what it was like before then). I often publicly railed, and have friends that will roll their eyes in agreement, against what I believed, and which was, numerous cases of excessive force. 

    Either that cowboy attitude has largely left, the cowboys are out to pasture, the media is completely blind to the issue or, the SDPD has improved significantly in the 2000's. I believe it's the latter. I will be the first to say I have a privileged look speaking as a white, male living and largely only experiencing cops in the beach areas. So, although I may be wrong my belief is that we have improved and that the new Chief Zimmerman will carry that baton and improve the PD even more. She's exceptional and I for one think it's unfair and unreasonable to blame the entire SDPD because some of the officers did wrong.  

    Finally, I don't regard any abuse as trivial. I lived a life of it from childhood till late teens and am outspoken when I see abuse - from irresponsible parents to cops, and believe cops especially should be held to a higher standard. Yet, they are in a peculiar position and I for one would never be able to do that job. I cannot turn off my emotions from minute to minute and deal with the many things they see on a daily basis and are expected to be professional, emotionless and faultless robots. 

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @Jim Jones You could be right about it not being true. But, the 'at all' I can't agree with. Technically I don't know enough history to argue the point. However, I did live in Detroit suburbs and saw from a distance what lack of an even partially-effective law enforcement department did to that city. 

    It has been interesting seeing how crime has largely seemingly declined in the last decade+. But, I wonder if that's because crime actually lessened or if nationwide cities have cut deeper and deeper into public-safety budgets. 

    Time will tell because it likely has a long-boil effect - with problems surfacing long after they are under-resourced.