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Newly Released Audits Show Incomplete Training at SDPD

Chief Shelley Zimmerman and six assistant chiefs are among those out of compliance

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    Newly Released Audits Show Incomplete Training at SDPD
    SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman

    More than 60 San Diego Police Department officers and dispatchers, including Chief Shelley Zimmerman, did not complete state-required professional law enforcement training in 2013 and 2014, NBC 7 Investigates has learned.

    A letter from the state Commission on Peace Officer Training and Standards (POST) dated June 11, obtained through the California Public Records Act, details how POST consultants reviewed SDPD personnel files. “A large number of Department personnel were shown to be out of compliance” with professional training standards, the letter details.

    The POST-required training consists of at least 24 hours of “Advanced Officer Training” and “In-Service Training,” covering new laws, officer survival techniques, driver training, firearms and other subjects.

    The letter does not include the names or any information about which officers failed to complete the required peace officer training. POST said the name and rank of SDPD officers who are out of compliance is “confidential” information, exempt from release under the state’s public records act.

    But a well-placed, confidential law enforcement source told NBC 7 Investigates that Zimmerman was one of those cited for non-compliance with training requirements. This source said the list also includes six assistant chiefs, several captains and at least five sergeants.

    SDPD spokesman Lt. Scott Wahl confirmed that the POST audit identified 60 officers whom POST found to be out of compliance with training requirements, including Zimmerman, the six assistant chiefs, several captains, lieutenants, sergeants and dozens of officers and dispatchers.

    But Wahl said almost half of those 60 officers had in fact completed their POST required training and were listed in error in the POST audit report.

    Click here to learn more about the POST training requirements.

    The remaining 35 officers, including Chief Zimmerman, six assistant chiefs, five captains and three sergeants, are now either up-to-date on their training or are scheduled to attend and complete their POST training, according to Wahl.

    “The San Diego Police Department has taken proactive measures to ensure all of its members attend their POST required training,” Wahl told NBC 7 Investigates. Wahl said that as a result of the audit, the department will notify every officer and dispatcher in advance about the POST training deadlines. All personnel will also get periodic email notices about their progress toward completing the POST training.

    Zimmerman also took personal responsibility for the training lapse. “This is an oversight on my part and some members of my department that I regret,” said Zimmerman in a statement released to NBC 7 Investigates. (Read full statement below.)

    The audit was initially requested in a state public records act request addressed to the SDPD. The department denied the request, claiming the document is considered “part of an officer’s personnel file” and thus confidential and exempt from disclosure.

    NBC 7 Investigates asked SDPD to reconsider that denial. In response, Wahl sought guidance from SDPD’s legal counsel, who said the information was in fact not exempt from disclosure. Wahl released the information on Dec. 15, six weeks after the department’s attorney said it was not confidential. Wahl said the delay was caused by the department’s need to double check the accuracy of the POST audit, a time-consuming process that revealed that almost half of the officers listed as “non-compliant” had in fact complied with POST training requirements.

    Click here to read the audit documents released from SDPD.

    In addition to the training compliance audit, POST provided NBC 7 Investigates with copies of four evaluations of specific courses taught at San Diego’s regional law enforcement academy at Miramar College.

    An October 2013 evaluation uncovered problems with the academy’s Firearms and Chemical Agents program, including:

    • Firearm safety rules were not posted in an easy-to-see location.
    • There were no guidelines for the chemical agents training program.
    • There was no policy for decontaminating students who may be accidentally doused with dangerous chemicals.

    In the audit, the inspector also noted the public could be harmed by chemical agents if the winds blow  those chemicals toward the main public roads near the academy in the Miramar/Mira Mesa area. More importantly, the inspector said he was unable to confirm compliance with safety rules in 10 other aspects of the program because “there were no chemical agent instructors available to discuss the management of the program(s)!”

    Officials at the regional academy have not responded to a request for comment about that audit.

    Click here to read the audit of the chemical agents program.

    In the other audits, POST consultants gave high marks to the academy’s vehicle/driver training and physical fitness programs.

    “Kevin Rausis does an outstanding job coordinating and managing (the law enforcement driver training course),” a consultant wrote in his September review. “Another exemplary aspect is the outstanding instructional staff.”

    Click here to read the audit of the vehicle/driver training.

    Another consultant gave equal praise for the academy’s physical fitness program, noting that program manager “Lisa Hartman and her staff are very dedicated, professional and enthusiastic about their work.”

    Click here to read the audit of the physical fitness program.

    Chief Zimmerman’s statement to NBC 7 Investigates:

    “We at the San Diego Police Department are committed to keeping everyone current on our POST continued professional training. A recent audit confirmed that did not happen. This was an oversight on my part and some members of my department which I regret. Everyone who needed POST continued professional training including myself is now current or will be once they have completed their upcoming scheduled training. Proactive measures now in place will ensure this never happens again and all future POST continued professional training is completed within the designated timeframe. In addition, we are working with POST to receive continued professional training credit for our annual 40-hour supervisor command training and a new training class called, “Effective Interactions” designed to enhance our community policing efforts. We are confident POST will find both of our class’s excellent training.”

    NBC 7 Investigates is working for you. If you have more information about this or other story tips, contact us: (619) 578-0393, NBC7Investigates@nbcuni.com. To receive the latest NBC 7 Investigates stories subscribe to our newsletter.