A SDPD officer is under investigation for the improper "pat downs" of four women. NBC 7's Dave Summers is following this developing story.
A San Diego Police officer is accused of sexual misconduct involving at least four women, according to SDPD Chief William Lansdowne.
A separate law enforcement source said the officer is Chris Hays.
SDPD Chief William Lansdowne said the officer -- whose identity he would not confirm -- is being investigated for improper "pat downs" of four detained females and for getting "sexual gratification" while doing them.
"In the course of the detention, officers search people, and in this case we believe the searches were done improperly, but it didn't go underneath inside the clothing -- it didn't go there," said Lansdowne.
At least one of the alleged victims had been drinking. The incidents happened in the downtown and central San Diego areas.
Hays is on paid leave and has been relieved of police responsibilities.
The allegations first came to light in December, when one of the alleged victims called SDPD to complain about the officer's improper behavior during a pat down.
The police's internal investigation led to three other possible victims, Lansdowne said.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s office has had the case since the middle of January, but the DA's spokesperson says they have no time frame for making a decision on charges against the officer.
They could possibly bring felony charges against him if there is enough evidence that he got -- or tried to get -- sexual gratification from those pat downs.
These parallel investigations could lead to Hays' termination.
After asking for comment on the incident from the city of San Diego, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria released the following statement:
I have spoken with Chief Lansdowne about this case and appreciate the Police Department responded to the initial complaint quickly with an internal investigation. The vast majority of our police officers are upstanding citizens who are committed to following the laws they are entrusted to enforce. I ask all San Diegans to continue to trust our officers and to report any concerning activity they witness or experience so we can maintain a high quality public safety force.
According to Lansdowne, the allegations are not as serious as those against Anthony Arevalos, who was convicted of sexual battery, assault and asking for bribes, because they do not involve allegations of "skin-to-skin" contact by an officer, no request from women that they be freed if they comply with the officer's demands and no alleged offer by the officer to let them go only if they let him touch them.
Convicted former SDPD officer Arevalos will be back in court Friday on an unrelated case.
Check back for updates on this developing story.