San Diego police see 9 officers arrested this year www.privateofficer.com
SAN DIEGO CA May 19 2011 — As San Diego police officials grapple with a spate of officer misconduct cases, Mayor Jerry Sanders — who led the department for six years in the 1990s — said Thursday he is confident Chief William Lansdowne can get the problem under control.
“I talked to Bill at length (Wednesday) and told him that we just need to get on top of it, and I think he’s got a good
plan in place and we’ll be monitoring it closely,” Sanders said.
The mayor, who served 26 years in the Police Department, praised the seven-point plan Lansdowne developed to combat officer misconduct. The plan includes beefing up the Internal Affairs Unit, creating a complaint hotline and training more officers on an early warning and intervention system.
But hours after Lansdowne presented the plan on Tuesday to the news media and promised to regain the public’s trust in the agency, an officer was arrested on suspicion of raping a prostitute while on duty. The officer was the ninth since October to come under scrutiny for his conduct.
“I’m obviously concerned any time a police officer commits a crime,” Sanders said. “And I’m concerned about the fact that we have so many officers out there that work so hard and do such a great job, and then they get tarred by a few of these guys who are absolute jerks.”
Daniel Dana, 26, is accused of raping a prostitute whom he had threatened to jail if she didn’t have sex with him early Wednesday morning.
Dana’s arrest ended his four-year career on the force. He is expected to be arraigned Friday in San Diego Superior Court.
Although Dana has not been with the department for long, the others who have been investigated are veterans
with 12 years or more on the force. The allegations against them include sexual battery under the color of authority, drunken driving, hit and run, domestic violence, stalking and property damage.
So far, the investigations have led to criminal charges against five of the officers.
“Usually you would anticipate somebody who hasn’t been on very long because you don’t know them as well,” Sanders said. “But when you get officers with 14, 15, 17, 20 years doing stuff like this, that’s very concerning.”
Lansdowne, who keeps in regular touch with police chiefs in big cities across the nation, said other departments
are facing similar problems, such as in Seattle, where police are under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, and in Philadelphia, where officers are embroiled in a steroid-sales scandal.
“All are saying there’s an increase in misconduct,” Lansdowne said. “We are struggling to figure out what are the issues causing this?”
Lansdowne and others have pointed to the stresses caused by the recession — home foreclosures, unemployed adult
children living back at home and department understaffing — as a possible contributor.
Law enforcement experts said municipal budget woes might be contributing in other ways to the misconduct problem, with police departments cutting ethics and legal awareness training.
“The fallout or ripple effect of not having that training is we have these situations where especially off-duty cops don’t think about what their actions are off duty and how they negatively impact the public persona of their department,” said Thomas J. Martinelli, a police ethicist and adjunct professor at Wayne State University in
Michigan. “Officers don’t see the big picture. … They don’t think about their actions and how that affects their career and department image. Training makes them think about how to act on duty and off duty.”
Executive Assistant Police Chief David Ramirez said San Diego officers receive ethics training in the police academy and about every two years after that.
Martinelli, a former Detroit police officer, said budget cuts and hiring freezes have also affected the ability of supervisors to supervise.
“Middle managers — the sergeants and lieutenants — continually complain to us they are stuck doing more paperwork at their desks and are unable to go out in the street and monitor police officers,” he said. “Younger officers are having a perception of a lack of accountability.”
Ramirez said desk-bound supervisors haven’t been an issue in San Diego for the past several years, when an emphasis was placed on keeping sergeants in the field so they can respond to high-risk incidents
involving mentally ill or suicidal people. There is also a field lieutenant on the streets 24 hours a day, and it is not unusual to find a uniformed captain answering radio calls, the assistant chief said.
A concept being pushed at many police departments is shared responsibility — the idea that police need to police themselves and should be able to do that without the fear of retaliation.
Sanders on Thursday echoed the chief’s recent statements that the “code of silence” among officers has no place in modern police culture.
We need to enlist all of the police officers to help us identify people who are on the edge for whatever reason,” Sanders said. “You know, there are stresses right now. There are stresses for all city employees, but I think especially the police officers.”
The last time the Police Department faced such widespread scrutiny for alleged misconduct was about 20 years ago,
when officers were being investigated for connections to a slain prostitute and police source, Donna Gentile, and other wrongdoings such as drug use, perjury and cover-ups.
The county’s grand jury issued a scathing report about the alleged corruption in 1990, but the following grand jury and a separate multiagency task force concluded in 1991 there was no institutional corruption in the San Diego Police Department, despite the isolated incidents of misconduct.