No New Reforms in SDPD Settlement - Voice of San Diego

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No New Reforms in SDPD Settlement

Attorneys for a police sexual misconduct victim had argued for outside oversight of the department, saying SDPD’s reforms weren’t enough. Apparently, they were.

Most of the headlines about the city of San Diego’s settlement with a police sexual misconduct victim focus on the money. The settlement, which was announced Thursday afternoon, is for $5.9 million – including $3 million in attorney’s fees.

But attorneys for the victim, known as Jane Doe, wanted more than cash. They argued for court-ordered outside oversight of the department after evidence from the case revealed SDPD supervisors ignored multiple warning signs about the officer’s behavior before he victimized Doe in 2011. A federal judge ruled in April that there was enough evidence of a “code of silence” on misconduct issues within the department for a jury to hear.

That didn’t happen. And the settlement includes no additional oversight or reforms beyond what the department has already implemented, including an ongoing voluntary U.S. Department of Justice review of SDPD misconduct policies.

I asked Doe’s attorneys why they backed off.

“Jane Doe has done all she can do through the court process to get out all the evidence to support whatever federal intervention the Department of Justice deems appropriate,” Doe attorney Joseph Dicks said. “We commend the city attorney’s office and the Police Department for inviting in the scrutiny.”

That’s a big change from what Dicks and Doe’s other attorneys have said before. They repeatedly criticized SDPD’s responses to Doe’s case and other instances of officer sexual misconduct as too weak. As recently as June, Doe attorney Linda Workman blasted the Justice Department review after we revealed the firm contracted to perform it had ties to former SDPD chiefs.

“If the organization that’s conducting the audit is biased, then it’s a waste of time and resources and the public does not get the reforms it needs,” Workman told 10News.

The department has made some changes since this case heated up and other officers were accused of sexually victimizing women earlier this year:

• Shelley Zimmerman replaced William Lansdowne as chief.

• Zimmerman implemented a policy making it mandatory for all officers to report the misconduct of their colleagues.

• The department is outfitting patrol officers with body cameras.

• Zimmerman reinstituted an internal misconduct investigative unit.

• The city asked the FBI to criminally investigate individuals within the department for possible civil rights crimes. An FBI spokesman confirmed Thursday the investigation remains open.

The DOJ review, which began in March, should be ending soon. Zimmerman said at the press conference she planned to meet with researchers to discuss their findings next week.

But the Jane Doe lawsuit was the case that might have resulted in the biggest changes. This is the 13th and final victim of the officer, Anthony Arevalos, who have now settled lawsuits. The previous 12 settled for a total of $2.3 million.

“We are glad that we can put this behind us so we can focus on our future and rebuild our police department,” Zimmerman said.

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