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Feds probe San Diego police misconduct

Monday - 3/24/2014, 8:03pm  ET

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, flanked by Associated United States Attorney General Tony West and COPS Office Director Ron Davis, right, talks about the federal investigation into the San Diego Police Department at a news conference Monday, March 24, 2014, in San Diego. The city said in a statement Sunday that the investigation was an attempt to restore transparency and was "the first of many steps to help rebuild the San Diego Police Department." (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

JULIE WATSON
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Federal officials are conducting two separate probes into the San Diego Police Department that has been besieged by more than a dozen cases of officer misconduct, ranging from drunken driving to rape, city and federal officials announced Monday.

The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office will be doing a criminal investigation into specific cases, while the Department of Justice will be reviewing about 15 cases of misconduct documented over a three-year period to determine the cause of the problem plaguing the police force in one of the nation's safest cities.

"We believe every rock should be turned over," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told reporters at a joint news conference held by city and federal officials at the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego. "If crimes were committed in addition to those already prosecuted, perpetrators should be brought to justice."

Among the most prominent cases has been the conviction of Officer Anthony Arevalos in 2011 for eliciting sexual favors from women he stopped on traffic violations. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but a judge last month overturned two of those charges, including sexual battery, and Arevalos will be resentenced. The city has spent $2.3 million to settle 12 of 13 claims tied to the case, Goldsmith said.

Another officer resigned last month after being charged with sexually assaulting four women in his patrol car, and another was under internal investigation after allegations he had touched and exposed himself to women he arrested.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer emphasized that federal officials opened both investigations at the request of the city, which is just emerging from an unrelated sexual misconduct scandal that cut short the term of former Mayor Bob Filner. Faulconer took office earlier this month after a special election that followed Filner's resignation.

Faulconer immediately called for a full investigation and appointed the city's first female police chief after Chief William Landsdowne retired last month, ending 11 years at the helm. Lansdowne had said he was seeking an outside audit of department policies, training and discipline before announcing his retirement.

He also began requiring that all women in custody be accompanied by at least two officers.

Chief Shelley Zimmerman went one step further and began testing the wearing of on-body cameras by officers on the job.

Federal officials will be combing through the department's internal investigations into officer misconduct. The six-to-eight month probe will look at officer conduct on and off the job and could be expanded, said Ron Davis, director of The Justice Department's office of Community Oriented Policing Services, adding that it will be independent, fair and thorough.

The federal government is paying for the assessment, which could cost as much as a quarter-million dollars, Davis said. The city will provide periodic updates on the findings and proposed reforms.

Zimmerman said the morale of the force has been boosted because officers know the city is doing everything possible to weed out bad personnel.

"Our entire department feels terrible about this misconduct. We believe that those few officers have betrayed our badge, discredited, dishonored our noble profession. And our officers welcome this," said Zimmerman, adding: "All of us want to know what we can do to prevent hiring somebody that is going to make the terrible decision to discredit our badge."


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