With San Diego Police Department Chief William Lansdowne stepping down, a new chief will now step up: Shelley Zimmerman, who’s making a move from assistant chief of the SDPD to head honcho.
On Wednesday, Mayor-Elect Kevin Faulconer announced Zimmerman has been named chief of the department, citing Zimmerman's 31 years of experience as one of her many qualifications for the important job.
She is the first-ever female chief in SDPD history.
“She’s ready to lead,” said Faulconer. “I believe there is no better choice to lead this department and to accomplish this goal than Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman. She understands clearly what will be acceptable in this department and what will not be.”
For her part, Zimmerman said she was extremely grateful and honored to take on the leadership role. The new chief said she’s prepared to see the SDPD through recent scandals involving officers.
“As a proud member of our department for 31 years I can tell you without question that 99.9 percent of our officers serve every single day with honor, distinction and professionalism, and for those few that make the absolute terrible decision to discredit this badge and dishonor our profession, I will not tolerate this,” said Zimmerman.
Meanwhile, Lansdowne said Zimmerman is the right person for the job and has the “compassion, integrity and courage” to lead.
According to the San Diego Police Museum, Zimmerman was born in Cleveland and graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in criminal justice. She joined the SDPD in 1982. She’s also a graduate of the FBI National Academy #241.
As Zimmerman mentioned at Wednesday’s briefing, she has worked in a variety of assignments and leadership roles over her time at the SDPD. This has included vice, narcotics, internal affairs and the field lieutenant position, according to the San Diego Police Museum.
Over her long career, she has earned many awards and accolades including a San Diego Press Club Headliner of the Year award for her undercover work and the San Diego Police Foundation Women in Blue award for her commitment to making San Diego safe.
In her spare time, according to the museum, Zimmerman is an avid sports fan and triathlete.
According to the San Diego Police Officers Association (SDPOA), Zimmerman is an excellent choice to tackle the challenging position of SDPD chief.
In a statement released Wednesday night, the SDPOA said it fully supports Faulconer’s decision to appoint Zimmerman as chief. The association had this to say, in part, about the new chief:
"Over the past several years, Assistant Chief Zimmerman has accomplished a great deal that may have gone unnoticed by our members. She worked cooperatively with elected officials to address our MCT and communications problems and streamlined the hiring process in order to address chronic understaffing.
Chief Zimmerman is the most knowledgeable person in the department regarding our staffing, equipment and compensation deficiencies. She applied that understanding by advocating for the approval of the 5-Year Plan by City Council. This plan will fund the staffing and equipment needed to rebuild our department. Additionally, she recognizes the recruitment and retention of officers can only be achieved by providing competitive compensation to our officers.
Shelley Zimmerman is the right choice for the job. She recognizes and understands the bounty of talent that we all know exists within our department. We anticipate she will be making leadership moves that will renew confidence in our department for both officers and citizens alike.
This appointment presents a tremendous opportunity for our city. Shelley Zimmerman is a leader who can elevate our department to the level to which we aspire and the community demands."
Thus far, Zimmerman has received an outpouring of support from local leaders.
Following the big announcement of her new role as SDPD chief Wednesday, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria released the following statement:
“Shelley Zimmerman is a well-respected leader with 31 years of service at the San Diego Police Department, and I know she will do a fine job as San Diego’s police chief.”
Meanwhile, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis also expressed her support for the new chief with this statement:
"I've worked with Assistant Chief Zimmerman for many years and she's an excellent choice to lead the San Diego Police Department at this critical time when public trust must be restored. She's well-known in the community, well-qualified to lead the department and has been a trusted partner with the District Attorney's Office in the pursuit of justice. Choosing Shelley Zimmerman ensures that a serious review and resolution of any problems at SDPD will occur quickly. I applaud Mayor-Elect Faulconer for moving quickly and for choosing the first woman Chief of Police in San Diego history. I know Chief Zimmerman will bring a unique perspective to the job which will serve her, and the citizens of San Diego well."
San Diego Councilmember Lorie Zapf was also very satisfied with the news, releasing this statement:
“I am thrilled that Mayor-Elect Faulconer has named Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman to be San Diego’s first female Chief of Police. Chief Zimmerman is an exceptional officer and public servant, and I can think of no one better suited to lead our department during this time. She has shown tremendous dedication to the citizens of San Diego, and I know she will continue moving America’s Finest in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, at Wednesday’s briefing San Diego Councilmember Marti Emerald also said Zimmerman is the best leader for the job.
“She a wonderful police officer who understands the needs of communities, who cares about our neighborhoods and is devoted to this police department,” said Emerald. “As a woman, it’s great to see another woman in a position of leadership.”
“[Zimmerman] comes into this opportunity with sets of skills and sensitivities that will make an enormous difference on the streets of San Diego. I’m so eager to see Shelley elected as our next police chief and to begin what will be many years in this position and create a legacy of her own, creating safer neighborhoods, greater trust in police and government,” added Emerald.
San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore also praised the move to make Zimmerman the head of the SDPD.
"I've worked with Assistant Chief Zimmerman on many projects and have nothing but the utmost respect for her experience, insight, and professionalism," said Sheriff Gore in a statement released Wednesday evening. "I have no doubt Assistant Chief Zimmerman will continue the San Diego Police Department's tradition of collaboration and will lead the department into a new era of policing."
Lansdowne's retirement from the SDPD is effective Mar. 3, 2014 -- the same day Faulconer is officially sworn in as the new mayor of San Diego.