Is the "thin blue line" eroding in America's Finest City?

New Lawsuit Claims SDPD Failed to Control Arevalos

Attorney files case in federal court

By Paul Krueger and Lauren Steussy
|  Friday, Feb 21, 2014  |  Updated 11:05 AM PDT
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The latest lawsuit against former SDPD Officer Anthony Arevalos claims San Diego Chief William Lansdowne failed to control bad behavior by his officers. Arevalos is in state prison now, following his conviction on sexual battery and other crimes against women.

The latest lawsuit against former SDPD Officer Anthony Arevalos claims San Diego Chief William Lansdowne failed to control bad behavior by his officers. Arevalos is in state prison now, following his conviction on sexual battery and other crimes against women.

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A lawsuit filed in Feb. 2012 accuses San Diego's police department of not doing enough to prevent misconduct cases like that of disgraced former cop Anthony Arevalos.

The lawsuit names San Diego Police Department Chief William Lansdowne as a defendant, and claims that by disbanding the departments "anti-corruption unit" in 2003, he gave a "virtual green light" to officers that misconduct would not be punished.

"The fact that they knew, and let him on the street to do it again and again and again is gong to cost them a lot of money," said the attorney who filed the lawsuit, Mary Prevost.

Arevalos, now in state prison, was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison earlier this month for preying on young, female drivers during traffic stops made in the Gaslamp Quarter from 2009 to 2011.

Click here for a timeline of the Arevalos trial in which several women testified against him.

Prevost said one particular victim in the trial is evidence of the department's failure. The woman, who requested to only be identified as "Jane" said Arevalos waved a flashlight in her face and then shoved his hands inside her two years ago in Mission Valley.

Jane reported the incident, but Arevalos stayed on the job, where he assaulted several other women before his arrest and conviction.

"She feels that it failed her from the begining and that her justice will be done in civil court," Prevost said.

Prevost says federal judges, who have lifetime appointments, are more independent than state judges, who must campaign for re-election.

"They're looking for the police department, the sheriff's department, to all back them and support them when they run," she said.

Legal experts also say it's easier for plaintiffs to get an officer's personnel record, in federal court.

Those records can reveal more examples of bad behavior and discipline.

"Being able to get those records and perhaps getting them into evidence can be decisive in a civil rights case," Prevost said.

Naming Chief Lansdowne as a defendent would hold the department more accountable, she added.

"The fact that they knew, and let him on the street to do it again and again and again is gong to cost them a lot of money."

The SDPD has not responded to a request for comment on this most recent lawsuit.

One expert said the city could challenge Jane's credibility because she admitted she was drunk when she was allegedly molested.

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