San Diego Mayor-Elect Kevin Faulconer has decided to make officer scandals plaguing the San Diego Police Department his top priority once he is sworn into office.
Faulconer met with SDPD Chief William Lansdowne Friday for a “very good and frank” conversation about what Faulconer expects once he becomes mayor.
During their roughly 30 minute discussion, Faulconer said he emphasized to the chief that he wants best policies and procedures followed by officers, agreeing with a plan to invite an outside auditor to review those practices.
“I will expect and demand that we have the best police department in the country,” said Faulconer.
The audit comes in the wake of two sex scandals involving a current Officer Donald Moncrief and former Officer Christopher Hays.
Moncrief has been suspended with pay after a woman accused him of groping her and exposing himself during an auto theft arrest in 2013.
Hays resigned from the police department after he was charged with false imprisonment and sexual battery involving alleged incidents with four women.
The chief of police serves at the will of the mayor, which means Lansdowne needs the support of Faulconer and the city council to keep his job.
When asked if he still has confidence in Lansdowne, Faulconer said, “I have confidence in the men and women who are doing their job every single day. My job as mayor is to ensure that all city employees come to work, are given the resources they need to be successful. I’m going to ensure that not only in the police department, but in every city department. I’m going to have very clear standards about what I expect and what I will not tolerate.”
As mayor, Faulconer said he will move forward with a proposal to place cameras with police officers, and he will allocate money for that purpose in his upcoming budget proposal.
He will be deciding on the number of cameras and how quickly they are implemented in the next couple of weeks.
Faulconer also talked with Lansdowne about ways to improve recruitment and retention within the department, an effort he said will also be reflected in the budget.
After the scandals came to light, Lansdowne started to crack down on policies, announcing that from now on, two officers will transport female suspects to jail to prevent more problems.
Crisis communication expert David Oates said his strategy of transparency is working.
"Cameras are going live -- access to the public without really any filtering process, without being able to say, ‘Well, let me start this again,’” said Oates. “His leadership team has really taken a forthright approach with that."
But others said Lansdowne’s call for an independent audit could backfire.
According to public relations consultant Bob Schuman, an audit could uncover even more problems with SDPD leadership.
“I think it's probably good for the citizens, and it's good for the taxpayers, but for the chief, I'm not sure it was a very bright idea,” said Schuman.
Lansdowne announced this week that he has no plans to retire and wants to fix what’s broken inside his department. Schuman said it’s probably too late for that because Lansdowne does not have strong support inside or outside the department.
However, Oates said the chief’s candor and personality will pull him through the crisis.
The audit would take at least six months to complete, but first, the city council must approve Lansdowne’s proposal.