Flanked by three of his highest ranking officers, Police Chief Bill Lansdowne sat before the City Council Wednesday, prepared to answer questions about the largest scandal under his command. But five months after the scandal broke, Lansdowne received more sympathy than scrutiny before a packed room of residents, cops and reporters.

In the scandal that unfolded between October 2010 and May 2011, the Police Department acknowledged 11 separate investigations involving accusations of serious officer misconduct. Five officers were charged criminally, with the most severe charges including on-duty rape and sexual assault.

At the time, Lansdowne called the spike in allegations unprecedented, publicly apologized and rolled out seven initiatives to address lagging internal oversight. They included an anonymous complaint hotline, an expanded unit to investigate misconduct and more attention to officers’ wellness.


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Marti Emerald, chairwoman of the council’s public safety committee, had promised a public hearing to hold department leaders accountable for the seven initiatives and question them about internal oversight. But it was delayed for months because of scheduling conflicts.

During that hearing Wednesday, the four members of the committee asked Lansdowne about his seven initiatives, such as how they were implemented and how officers feel about them. Nearly all of his answers were reported by local news media months ago.

Both Emerald and Councilman Todd Gloria downplayed the significance of the scandal through their questions, saying it involved relatively few officers in the department. Gloria said police had been unduly criticized.

“Police do not feel the respect that they deserve,” Gloria said. “I want to make sure for any officer hearing my voice, we appreciate what you do.”

Though Lansdowne’s own decisions have contributed to the scandal’s underpinnings, the chief blamed the problem on larger factors like the economic slump and the city’s financial challenges. He repeatedly said past reductions to the police force allowed greater room for misconduct. And he said police agencies across the nation are noticing similar personnel-related problems.

The council members didn’t press further about the scandal’s causes. Each member thanked Lansdowne for responding to a scandal that developed under his command and Lansdowne returned their praise by thanking them for an opportunity to speak.

Several key questions we’ve had about the scandal went unasked or unanswered.

Emerald was the only council member to push Lansdowne on specific allegations. She asked the chief to explain whether lacking supervision had improved. Without naming him, Emerald cited the allegations facing former officer Anthony Arevalos, who’s accused of soliciting sexual bribes or sexually assaulting seven women while on duty.

Lansdowne said lieutenants are now more available to address misconduct and refused to respond about ongoing investigations. He said his comments could affect where those cases are heard in court and he wants them to stay in San Diego.

“I’m reluctant to talk about those cases right now,” he told Emerald. “We’re going to try it in the courts where it should be.”

Emerald didn’t push, and thanked him for attending the hearing. Lansdowne said the visit was his duty. “I’m the one responsible. I understand that,” he said.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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    This article relates to: Anthony Arevalos, Police Misconduct, Public Safety

    Written by Keegan Kyle

    18 comments
    joe vargo
    joe vargo subscriber

    BTW, I shave my head too, very invigorating. I'm growing this patch on my lower lip. I might braid it if it gets long enough. Ya know, kinda an upside down hare krishna.

    joev
    joev

    BTW, I shave my head too, very invigorating. I'm growing this patch on my lower lip. I might braid it if it gets long enough. Ya know, kinda an upside down hare krishna.

    joe vargo
    joe vargo subscriber

    Law enforcement carries a heavy burden. How they view the people their sworn to protect. I once told an officer that you are paid to be paranoid and that I will bet you get pretty good at it. In my El Cerrito newletter, I feel the police are trying to communicate with a two year old.

    joev
    joev

    Law enforcement carries a heavy burden. How they view the people their sworn to protect. I once told an officer that you are paid to be paranoid and that I will bet you get pretty good at it. In my El Cerrito newletter, I feel the police are trying to communicate with a two year old.

    Jake Resch
    Jake Resch subscriber

    Take the foil off your head, you are too concerned with cover up. Did you think the citizen review board ( who the police have no control over) who review EVERY major use of force case would allow a cover up?

    Dawg53
    Dawg53

    Take the foil off your head, you are too concerned with cover up. Did you think the citizen review board ( who the police have no control over) who review EVERY major use of force case would allow a cover up?

    Jake Resch
    Jake Resch subscriber

    As for the frowns, maybe that is becuase they city continues to kick them while they are down and look for every opportunity to take money out of their pockets all the while, the city hires a Stadium consultant, builds and underfunded library and continues with more convention center expansion. Talk ab out a slap in the face. I guess the city is only broke when it comes to salaries and not pet projects.

    Dawg53
    Dawg53

    As for the frowns, maybe that is becuase they city continues to kick them while they are down and look for every opportunity to take money out of their pockets all the while, the city hires a Stadium consultant, builds and underfunded library and continues with more convention center expansion. Talk ab out a slap in the face. I guess the city is only broke when it comes to salaries and not pet projects.

    bruce beyor
    bruce beyor subscriber

    , the police will get back the respect they re demanding. Heck, go get a fix it ticket and ask a sherrif to sign it off. The sherriff wants $15.00 to sign his or her name. That is a sure way of getting the people's respect. I contend they have lost their way. Like all union grouops, they take the job then want to change the rules and rise the salary theymagreed to. This man has no respect for them till they earn it.

    Grumpy
    Grumpy

    , the police will get back the respect they re demanding. Heck, go get a fix it ticket and ask a sherrif to sign it off. The sherriff wants $15.00 to sign his or her name. That is a sure way of getting the people's respect. I contend they have lost their way. Like all union grouops, they take the job then want to change the rules and rise the salary theymagreed to. This man has no respect for them till they earn it.

    Fred Williams
    Fred Williams subscriber

    Nothing changes in San Diego. Police and prosecutors remain immune from scrutiny, and in exchange they support the politicians who look the other way.

    Fred_Williams
    Fred_Williams

    Nothing changes in San Diego. Police and prosecutors remain immune from scrutiny, and in exchange they support the politicians who look the other way.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    San Diego politicians have a long history of sweeping police misconduct under the carpet. The last thing they want would be for the police to begin examining and exposing their own dirty laundry.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood

    San Diego politicians have a long history of sweeping police misconduct under the carpet. The last thing they want would be for the police to begin examining and exposing their own dirty laundry.

    Richard Ross
    Richard Ross subscribermember

    With all due respect to responsible law enforcement officers, DAs, and Judges the general public is well aware when it come to violations that there are two sets of laws. The more stringent set applies to the general public and the more liberal set to the aforementioned trio.

    Activist
    Activist

    With all due respect to responsible law enforcement officers, DAs, and Judges the general public is well aware when it come to violations that there are two sets of laws. The more stringent set applies to the general public and the more liberal set to the aforementioned trio.