The San Diego City Council confirmed the appointment of the city’s first-ever female police chief Tuesday, voting 8-0 to have Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman become the new chief of the San Diego Police Department.
Zimmerman, a 31-year veteran of the department, was the choice of incoming Mayor Kevin Faulconer when he was tasked to replace retiring Chief William Lansdowne. On Tuesday, she was officially appointed to the position by the San Diego City Council.
“It is a privilege to wear this uniform and badge and I’m very grateful for the opportunity and challenge we are undertaking,” said Zimmerman after being appointed. “In 1981, I moved out here from Cleveland, Ohio. I did not know anyone. I did not have a job. I didn’t even have a place to stay. And, today, I am the chief of police of the San Diego Police Department.”
Though Zimmerman has the full support of Mayor Faulconer and other city leaders, some community leaders are raising concerns about Zimmerman’s appointment process, criticizing the speed and process by which she was selected.
While some believe it was rushed, the city council believes there’s no time like the present to recognize her qualifications and get the SDPD under new leadership amid recent scandals.
For her part, Zimmerman said she’s ready to lead the department and has big plans for the future of the SDPD.
“We will instill a culture of excellence in our police department. We will demand it of ourselves because our community deserves it,” said Zimmerman, before the city council. “It starts with the chief of police all the way to our newest recruit and our entire civilian staff.”
“All of us will strive to be the very best at what we do in the very best police department and in the most beautiful city in the world,” she continued. “We are committing every single second of every single day to the words that are written on the doors of our police cars: “America’s Finest.” These are not just words, these are our core values.”
Last week, Mayor Faulconer announced his plans to appoint Zimmerman once he took office on Mar. 3. His announcement came just hours after Lansdowne publicly announced he had decided to step down.
Faulconer said Zimmerman was an extremely qualified choice for the leadership position, having three decades of service under her belt, including having worked in narcotics and internal affairs, as well as on the Mayor's Executive Protection Detail and as a field lieutenant.
As she takes on the role of chief, Zimmerman will be working through recent scandals involving SDPD officers accused of sexual misconduct on the job.
This includes the case of former Officer Christopher Hays, 30, accused of inappropriate interaction with women while on duty. Last month, Hays pleaded not guilty to charges of false imprisonment and sexual battery.
There’s also the case of SDPD Officer Donald Moncrief, 39, who is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with female detainees that may have included exposing himself to a woman while on duty. No charges have been filed against Moncrief.
Zimmerman has said she supports the proposed plan to have an outside audit of the SDPD conducted in order to review department practices and training policies in the wake of the misconduct scandals plaguing the SDPD.
“Our officers and civilian personnel serve with honor, distinction and dedication every single day – united, as a team, for the betterment of our city. And for those very few who do not fulfill our standards, your failures will not be tolerated," said the chief. "Each of us is raising the bar, right here, right now and when we reach the bar, we’re going to raise it again. We’re going to strive for perfection every single second of every single day.”
“This badge that we all proudly wear is not just a piece of polished metal. It represents the people of San Diego,” she added.
On Tuesday, Council President Todd Gloria and Councilmember David Alvarez both asked Zimmerman about this proposed audit. They also asked the new chief whether she’d be committed with working with communities of color and diversity within the ranks of the police force.