Misconduct Issues Will Follow SDPD Into 2015 - Voice of San Diego


Misconduct Issues Will Follow SDPD Into 2015

The department has moved on to talking about officer pay and retention. But a long-awaited federal report on SDPD policies is due in January.

In 2014, San Diego jumped from police crisis to police crisis.

At the year’s start, allegations of racial profiling and officer misconduct snowballed into a scandal that pushed out former Chief William Lansdowne and led to a U.S. Department of Justice review of SDPD policies.

A new chief was hired, reforms were promised and a major lawsuit against an ex-officer was settled. The discussion, for the most part, moved on. By year’s end, the big topic became officer salaries and the threat of losing more cops to other agencies.

In 2015, the city appears poised to start paying its cops more – the only question is how much. But the city still hasn’t closed the book on the problems that plagued the department at the beginning of the year. We’re going to talk about them again early in 2015.

Here’s a look at the status of reforms the department already has undertaken and what’s coming next:

What’s On Deck?

Last March, city and Justice Department officials announced a federal review of SDPD policies on misconduct. This was not designed as an independent audit of the department or a prelude to outside oversight from the feds. But it was supposed to show whether the department could have better policies for handling officer misconduct. The review also was supposed to be done by the end of the year. It’s not.

SDPD spokesman Kevin Mayer said the report’s release has been delayed until late January. He wouldn’t explain why.

Beyond the DOJ review, the department is continuing to collect racial data on traffic stops, a program restarted after we revealed SDPD had quietly stopped following its own policy. A San Diego State criminologist is taking a deeper look at the data to see if there’s evidence of racial bias in traffic stops or searches. His report is expected in early 2015 as well.

What Reforms Did the City Make?

The biggest change the department made this year was getting a new leader. In March, Shelley Zimmerman, a former Lansdowne deputy, was appointed chief. Her appointment was Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s first major decision after his February election, and the pair have long been close.

Zimmerman implemented reforms targeted to officer misconduct issues:

• All officers now have to report the misconduct of their colleagues.

• The department is outfitting patrol officers with body cameras.

• An internal misconduct investigative unit disbanded by Lansdowne has been restarted.

But Zimmerman also has made it difficult to know how well these reforms are working. She created a body camera policy that leaves public disclosure of camera videos up to her discretion, something it’s clear might only happen in extreme circumstances.

She also won’t say what the internal misconduct investigative unit is doing.

“We will not provide details on hours, tactics or the number of staff as this information is kept confidential for the success of their mission,” Mayer said.

He said he was unaware of any arrests the unit has made.

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