SAN DIEGO (AP) — Lack of supervision and failure to hold officers accountable contributed to a rash of misconduct involving San Diego police officers, a U.S. Justice Department review released Tuesday says.
The audit offers 40 recommendations to improve recruiting, hiring, training and supervision aimed at more quickly identifying problem officers.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman pledged to adopt all the suggestions but said some will require time and money.
Zimmerman's predecessor, William Lansdowne, requested the federal review shortly before announcing his retirement last year after several officers were accused of committing sexual assault or battery while on-duty.
Officer Anthony Arevalos was sentenced to eight years in prison after being accused of soliciting sexual favors from women he pulled over in traffic stops.
The Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services unit began its review shortly before an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, killed an unarmed black man. The shooting and other use of force incidents put police departments nationwide under the microscope.
Ron Davis, director of the unit, said the report didn't address racial profiling because it was outside the scope of the assignment — a shortcoming in the view of some critics.
The Justice Department hired the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group that advises law enforcement agencies, to review 17 cases of officer misconduct between 2009 and 2014, including four officers accused of criminal sexual assault or battery while on duty.
It found that two other officers had inappropriate but nonsexual relations with people under 18 and one dated women he met on duty. Other problems involved driving under the influence of alcohol, insurance fraud, shoplifting and attempting to cover up an alcohol-related automobile accident.
Budget cuts caused the department to shrink staffing by about 10 percent from 2010 to 2013, reducing the ability of managers to monitor behavior and allow some officers to engage in misconduct for years without being detected, the review said. Staffing cuts were especially severe at the crucial level of first-line supervisors.
The authors found no common factor to blame for the misconduct but rather a series of gaps in policies and practices and lack of supervision.
"Perhaps the most important lesson learned from this assessment is that the failure of the department's leaders to adequately address smaller problems led to much larger issues," the audit found.
Arevalos' case prompted sharp criticism of the department because his alleged wrongdoing occurred over an extended period of time: He was accused of victimizing women from 2009 to 2011.
Zimmerman, who joined the San Diego Police Department 32 years ago and was elevated from assistant chief, said she has already revamped complaint procedures and equipped 600 officers with body cameras. By year's end, all officers will wear cameras, she said.
Kellen Russoniello, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego and Imperial counties, applauded the city for seeking an independent review and welcomed the recommendations, but said it should have addressed issues of race.
"The problem is the scope was so narrow," he said. "It's not the complete conversation that we need to be having."
Sgt. Jeff Jordon, vice president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, said perceptions of racial profiling were being addressed in other ways, including a city councilwoman's request that San Diego State University researchers study data on traffic stops.
The union official said the findings address well-known shortcomings and that some changes will be costly, particularly those that require hiring and computer system upgrades.
"None of this is a shock to me," Jordon said. "Now the question is a lot of these recommendations are going to be very expensive."