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Scandals Are an Afterthought in Lansdowne Tributes

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 [1].

Lansdowne’s announcement follows several recent revelations [2] of officer misconduct, a botched case against a disgraced former officers [3] and a Voice of San Diego [4] investigation that spurred community members to speak out about police racial profiling [2].

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.

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 [5] 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 [6].

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 [7]. “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.”