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If Police Chief William Lansdowne’s promises to take misconduct complaints seriously sound familiar, that’s because we’ve heard them before.
When San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne announced the sexual misconduct investigation of yet another officer Wednesday, and detailed new measures the department would take in response, he turned to what’s become a familiar playbook.
“It’s a very serious allegation, and we are taking it very seriously,” Lansdowne said at a press conference. He repeated a call for citizens to come forward with concerns about potential misconduct. “We will aggressively investigate those cases and root out those officers who don’t belong in the San Diego Police Department.”
Sound familiar? That’s because the chief has made many similar promises throughout a spate of misconduct scandals that have emerged over the last several years.
Earlier Wednesday, Christopher Hays, an SDPD officer implicated in a similar case, resigned from the department. Of the Hays complaint, Lansdowne told the U-T this past weekend, “We are doing everything we should be doing in this case.”
The department is looking into bringing in an outside auditor to review how it handles sexual misconduct complaints against officers. Lansdowne said he would speak with the Department of Justice Thursday, and told the U-T:
“It’s all about public trust,” he said. Having an independent audit would “make sure everyone is on board and show how committed we are to doing the right thing.”
Lansdowne said the Hays incident was “nothing like” the case two years ago involving former Officer Anthony Arevalos.
“It’s not skin to skin,” Lansdowne said. “This officer didn’t ask for any favors.” This runs counter to allegations by Hays’ sixth accuser, who said the officer forced her to perform oral sex on him after he pulled her over in October 2012.
Arevalos was convicted of soliciting sexual bribes from five women while on duty.
When Arevalos was sentenced in February 2012 to eight years and eight months in state prison, Lansdowne promised:
“The San Diego Police Department will continue to serve this community with the same professionalism and excellence the citizens have come to know and will work tirelessly to restore any trust that may have been lost.”
At least nine officers were under investigation during the first half of 2011 for misconduct or “crimes as serious as rape under the color of authority,” VOSD’s Keegan Kyle reported. The spike then was “unprecedented,” the chief said before personally apologizing and unveiling a seven-step plan for department reform. During a 2011 press conference:
“I clearly understand that the conduct of the officers involved in these cases has tarnished the image of the Police Department, and we’ll work hard to repair that, but it will take years to rebuild that relationship,” Lansdowne told the cameras.
Now, the department’s proposed audit would join reform programs Lansdowne introduced after the Arevalos case erupted. These included “increased supervisor training, a revamped discipline manual, a bolstered internal affairs unit, a wellness center for officers and an anonymous complaint hotline,” and have all succeeded, he said.
After the chief revealed the latest reported incident Wednesday, VOSD’s Liam Dillon asked Lansdowne why this keeps happening.