New Allegations Keep Thwarting SDPD's Effort to Move On - Voice of San Diego

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New Allegations Keep Thwarting SDPD's Effort to Move On

Just as the new chief touts her reforms, a female officer files a new sexual harassment suit against the department.

It sure is hard for the San Diego Police Department to move past its problems with officer misconduct when people keep accusing its officers of misconduct.

This week, SDPD officer Dana Hoover filed a lawsuit alleging her colleagues sexually harassed and retaliated against her starting last February. Hoover said fellow officers and supervisors refused to help her during investigations, made grunting and animal sounds when she spoke and ultimately transferred her out of the Homicide Division to a less prestigious assignment in response to her complaints about mistreatment.

The alleged behavior happened during the tenure of former Police Chief William Lansdowne, but Hoover suggests SDPD continues to operate through a “good old boy network” that promotes officers who are included in it.

“However, those who are not ‘part of the good old boy network’ who raise issues and concerns are shunted, bullied and treated unfairly, discriminatorily, in a retaliatory manner and eventually set aside,” says the suit, which was first reported by the San Diego Reader.

This is at least the fourth sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female SDPD officer in recent years. The city settled three others for a total $120,000. Two of the suits alleged problems in the department’s Sex Crimes Unit and revealed that male officers had hung up in their cubicles photos of scantily clad women attached to jokes about women getting drugged. Hoover alleges that two of the officers who she claims harassed her were working in the Sex Crimes Unit at the time of those complaints.

And issues related to the Sex Crimes Unit continue. Next week, a civil trial is scheduled on a male officer’s counter-claim that he was harassed and retaliated against by the department and the female sex crimes officers who originally sued the city.

In the meantime, a jury in a separate trial will decide whether the department has a culture of covering up sexual misconduct. That issue is part of a civil case filed by a victim of police sexual misconduct. In a new document in that case, Chief Shelley Zimmerman says a trial on that issue would be too burdensome on the department, and unnecessary  given the numerous changes she’s implemented during her two months on the job and an ongoing federal review of the department.

Zimmerman said hundreds of officers could be called to the witness stand.

“Requiring a large number of on-duty San Diego Police officers to appear in court and testify in this matter may cause a significant disruption in the operation of police activities for a protracted period of time,” Zimmerman said in the court filing.

Last week, an SDPD officer was arrested on a felony domestic violence charge. Zimmerman immediately revoked his police powers and suspended him, a move so severe that it raised questions about the officer’s due process rights.

“I’ve sent, as the chief of police, a very clear message — expectations that we will be held to the highest standards on duty and off duty,” Zimmerman told reporters.

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