Nearly All DOJ Recommendations to SDPD Put Into Action: Chief

Chief Shelley Zimmerman said her department has done a lot to prevent officer misconduct in the future

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said her department has implemented nearly all of the 40 recommendations laid out in a U.S. Department of Justice audit aimed at cracking down on police misconduct.

The chief updated the SDPD's progress at a meeting for the San Diego City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, saying the department has executed all but six of the audit’s suggestions.

“These recommendations will help us improve the service we provide to our community,” said Zimmerman. “But I also want people to know the men and women of the police department are great people who overwhelmingly do the right thing and serve with honor, courage, pride and commitment in making San Diego a better place for everyone.”

Zimmerman was named head of the SDPD amid a number of scandals that rocked the department in 2014 and led the resignation of former Chief William Lansdowne. But before he left, Lansdowne requested an outside audit by the DOJ to look at preventing and detecting misconduct.

The 83-page audit, completed in March 2015, found 40 ways the SDPD could handle gaps in policies and practices in regards to misconduct investigations and hiring procedures.

While most of the recommendations have been implemented, Mark Robson with the San Diego Organizing Project told the committee and Zimmerman more needs to be done.

“On Monday we had a meeting at the church. One of our ministers shared a story where he was pulled over and made to put his hands on hood with three grandchildren in the back and then told it was a mistake,” Robson said. “So this conversation is very important to us.”

He said his group needs assurances that the DOJ report is being taken seriously.

Among the points that still need to be addressed is a proposal for a computerized, early intervention system which tracks use of force complaints, arrests, written citations and what officers do in the field.

“Our issue is we want to make sure the process is fair for the officers,” said Brian Marvel with the San Diego Police Officers Association. “If erroneous information is put in there, how do we get it out? Are officers actually allowed to look at their file to determine if it’s accurate? That is the issues we are covering.”

Another issue is the $15 million price tag, according to Marvel. Zimmerman said she is looking at how the system works in other large cities and will be meeting with an expert soon.

The chief also mentioned that a survey of community residents will be forthcoming. The policy director of the local ACLU said she hoped the department would be responsive to the results of that survey.

Over the past few years, the SDPD has been under fire for multiple officer misconduct cases. Ex-SDPD officer Anthony Arevalos was convicted of demanding sexual favors from women. Another, Christopher Hays, pleaded guilty to assault, battery and illegally detaining women while on duty, and a husband and wife formerly on the force, Jennifer and Bryce Charpentier, admitted to illegal activity to feed their own drug habits.

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