A Chief's Plan to Reduce Officer Misconduct
Surrounded by his command staff, San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne outlined his department's plan for dealing with a recent rash of officer misconduct cases.
San Diego Union Tribune via YellowBrix
May 11, 2011
SAN DIEGO — San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, addressing a recent rash of investigations into alleged wrongdoings by his officers, unveiled a seven-point plan Tuesday to reduce such misconduct.
The program comes on the heels of at least eight investigations into San Diego officers accused of crimes such as rape, domestic violence, drunken driving and sexual battery under the color of authority.
Lansdowne said the “unprecedented number” of cases against officers has tarnished the Police Department’s image and that it will take years to rebuild a strong relationship with the public.
“I want to personally apologize to every citizen of San Diego,” Lansdowne said during a news conference in front of police headquarters.
The chief said officers have faced the same financial, personal and work stresses as everyone else in the challenging economy, which may be contributing to the rise in on- and off-duty misconduct.
“But at the end of the day, there is no excuse at all for the conduct of these officers,” Lansdowne said.
The chief’s plan includes the following:
• Increase staffing in the Internal Affairs Unit so that citizen complaints and officer misconduct cases can be investigated more quickly. That way, misconduct can be addressed sooner, and disciplinary action can be taken closer to the incident.
• Increase training of supervisors in areas of ethics, leadership and the Early Identification Intervention System. The system is set up to “red-flag” certain behavior that may indicate future misconduct. Those indicators could be anything from increased traffic accidents to showing up late for work repeatedly to aggressive behavior.
• Set up an anonymous complaint hotline for the public to provide information about officers. The chief will listen to the hotline calls.
• Review the department discipline manual to make sure policies are up-to-date and make changes where necessary.
• Review the department’s Use of Force training and tactics.
• Add a “wellness assessment” to the annual evaluation process. Supervisors will do a personal assessment of the officers each year and guide them toward resources to help with personal issues. Confidentiality will be stressed, to make officers feel comfortable talking about problems.
• Meet with every officer in the department to explain the new plan. The chief plans to begin the meetings within the next couple of weeks and will make clear his expectations for all officers.
Sgt. Jeff Jordon, a board member of the city’s Police Officers Association, said that for a department that has been historically well-mannered for the most part, the spate of misconduct investigations has risen to a level he’s never seen.
“I absolutely agree with this program,” said Jordan, who has been on the force for about 10 years. “The chief is reminding officers that we understand a lot of your problems, but at the end of the day we expect more of you, and we’ll be here to get you there.”
Tuesday’s news conference came a few days after the latest officer arrest. Officer William Johnson, a 12-year veteran, was arrested in Chula Vista over the weekend on suspicion of driving under the influence following a crash. Chula Vista police said Johnson’s Lexus struck the back of a BMW about 11 p.m. Saturday. A passenger in the BMW suffered a cut on an eyebrow.
The other San Diego police officers under investigation are:
• Officer Bert Hulbert: On paid administrative duty while under investigation on allegations that he had an off-duty altercation with a teenage neighbor in Miramar on April 11.
• Art Perea, 42: Resigned March 4 amid an El Cajon police investigation into a college student’s allegations he raped her at a residence. Police said they are awaiting lab results on forensic evidence and then will decide whether to send the case to the district attorney for charges.
• Officer Roel Tungcab, 39: Arrested March 24 by sheriff’s deputies investigating domestic violence against his wife at his Imperial Beach home. He continues to work on paid administrative duty while the district attorney considers charges.
• Officer David Hall: Has pleaded not guilty to charges of felony drunken driving causing injury and felony hit and run in connection with an incident Feb. 22 while off-duty. He is on paid administrative duty.
• Sgt. Kenneth Davis, 47: Charged Feb. 10 with one count of stalking and three counts of making harassing phone calls to a female San Diego police officer last fall. He is on paid administrative duty and will go to trial on the charges.
• Anthony Arevalos, 40: Fired April 14 after being charged with sexually assaulting five women while on-duty. The 18-year veteran, who has been working as a DUI officer, was terminated after an internal investigation. He was arrested March 11 and faces 18 felony charges that include sexual battery, assault under the color of authority and bribery.
• Robert Acosta, 39: Charged Oct. 6, along with his wife, with causing $165,000 in damage to their foreclosed home in Murrieta. The couple is also accused of stealing $44,000 in property from the home. Acosta, who worked in the department’s helicopter unit, later resigned. A preliminary hearing is set for this summer.