On Wednesday, San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne fielded questions from reporters about a second police officer facing allegations of sexual misconduct. This comes on the heels of former Officer Chris Hays’ resignation amid similar accusations.
The San Diego Police Department is now investigating a second officer accused of misconduct on the job, SDPD Chief William Lansdowne confirmed Wednesday night.
Lansdowne said the department has launched an investigation into a six-year veteran of the SDPD after a woman came forward accusing the officer of "touching and exposure" during an arrest.
The woman originally thought the officer in her alleged encounter was former SDPD Officer Christopher Hays, 30, who's currently under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct involving at least four women.
However, after investigating, Lansdowne said the department determined that this particular case involves a completely different officer. Lansdowne said he can't identify the officer by name at this time, as the investigation is ongoing.
Lansdowne said the woman in this case has a "credible complaint" that involves a very serious allegation.
She told police her encounter with the officer happened during an auto theft arrest last year in the South Bay and involved the officer allegedly touching her inappropriately and exposing himself.
Again, Lansdowne said Hays had nothing to do with this particular incident.
Lansdowne said the officer accused in this case has been suspended from the department pending the investigation. He said no criminal charges have been filed against this officer just yet.
Lansdowne said these recent accusations surrounding SDPD officers have driven him to call for an audit into the police department. He feels an outside review into how the SDPD handles misconduct is crucial at this point.
For now, he said the department will continue to aggressively investigate this second officer as well as the allegations involving Hays.
"We will root out those officers who don't belong in the San Diego Police Department," he said.
Meanwhile, both Lansdowne and SDPD Lt. Kevin Mayer said changes are being made within the department already, including how many officers are required to handle the transport of female detainees.
Lt. Mayer said from this point forward, all female transports "will require the presence of two officers" so that an officer is never completely alone with a detainee or arrestee.
After Lansdowne announced this latest investigation and policy changes, San Diego Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer released this statement:
Ensuring confidence and trust in the San Diego Police Department is my top priority. San Diegans will see that this is the immediate focus of my administration when I take office.
Now, as for Hays, Lt. Mayer announced Wednesday that Hays is no longer employed with the SDPD, effective immediately. No further details were released about his departure from the department.
Hays is accused of misconduct while in uniform which included alleged improper pat downs of at least four women, Chief Lansdowne revealed last week. Since then, three more women have come forward claiming sexual assault at the hands of the officer.
Hays was formally charged with two felony counts of false imprisonment with violence and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery involving four women on Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty.
Following his arraignment, Hays' attorney, Kerry Armstrong,said the officer planned to resign from the SDPD, due to lack of support from the department.
Armstrong said Hays feels betrayed and, even if acquitted of charges, feels as though his career in law enforcement is over.
“He's extremely upset with the police department for not backing him in this case. It's really hurt him,” said Armstrong on Tuesday, adding that he and his client take issue with the department's investigation into the accusations against Hays.
Since Lansdowne confirmed the ongoing investigation into the officer last week, Hays had been on unpaid leave and relieved of his police duties.
The prosecutor handling the case declined to elaborate on the acts involved in the charges against Hays. On Tuesday, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said Hays “abused the public trust.”
Dumanis said the alleged acts involving Hays and the four women happened between Oct. 30 and Dec. 24, 2013.
If convicted on all counts, Hays could face up to three years and eight months in prison. A preliminary hearing in the case is slated for Apr. 22.