Police Chief William Lansdowne, whose department has been beset by a series of recent officer-misconduct allegations, announced Tuesday he will retire effective Monday.
Lansdowne, 69, has been the city of San Diego’s top law enforcement officer for 10 1/2 years.
On Friday, Mayor Elect Kevin Faulconer met with the chief to discuss the direction of the department in the wake of accusations of on-duty sexual improprieties by several sworn officers.
Though Faulconer did not ask him to resign, Lansdowne “felt it was time to do so,” according to SDPD public-affairs Lt. Kevin Mayer.
“The chief absolutely supports the new mayor and believes in his vision and direction for the city,” Mayer said. “This was a difficult decision for Chief Lansdowne to make, as he considers San Diego his home and truly values the citizens of this city and the employees who work here.”
Faulconer said Lansdowne informed him Monday night.
“The decision to resign was the chief’s, and the chief’s alone,” Faulconer said. “I told him that I would support his decision.”
Faulconer said he will announce next steps shortly. The SDPD has “great leadership” within its chief ranks, he said.
The mayor-elect is known to be close to Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman, but he did not rule out a national search.
Lansdowne served as police chief in Richmond and San Jose for four and five years, respectively, before taking charge of the SDPD in August 2003.
During his tenure in San Diego, Lansdowne “successfully led the department through countless critical events,” Mayer said. The chief took the helm amid chronic budget deficits that saddled the agency with depleted ranks, with many officers departing over the ensuing decade for jobs with better prospects.
In recent weeks, several women have come forward with allegations of being sexually abused by SDPD officers, one of whom has since resigned and been charged with criminal counts.
Ex-patrolman Christopher Hays, 30, pleaded not guilty last Tuesday to felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor sexual battery. He faces up to three years and eight months in prison if convicted.
On Wednesday, department officials announced that another SDPD officer had been placed on leave amid similar accusations.
A woman alleged that South Bay patrolman Donald Moncrief, 39, groped her and exposed himself after arresting her last year. He has not been charged with any crimes, though he has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the case, Lansdowne told reporters.
In 2011, then-SDPD Officer Anthony Arevalos was accused of sexually assaulting five women during traffic stops for suspected drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Arevalos ultimately was convicted and ordered to serve nearly nine years in prison, though this morning a judge threw out convictions on two of the counts, opening a possibility for a reduction in sentence.
So far, the city has agreed to pay out $2.3 million to settle lawsuits filed by Arevalos’ victims.
Adding to the department’s public image headaches, a San Diego police detective was arrested in Balboa Park last weekend on suspicion of drunken driving. Karen Almos, a 16-year department veteran, allegedly was found passed out in a parked car in the 2000 block of Pan-American Plaza on Saturday afternoon.
During a briefing at City Hall late this afternoon, Faulconer expressed his gratitude for Lansdowne’s “stellar” work leading the police department and for the chief’s 50-year law enforcement career.
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria asserted that Lansdowne’s leadership has resulted in the lowest crime rate in San Diego since the 1960s.
“His hallmark calm demeanor helped get the San Diego Police Department and our city through challenging financial cutbacks, and he remains a respected national expert on public safety,” Gloria said. “I’m grateful for his tremendous contributions to San Diego and wish him well in retirement.”
He said he was looking forward to a national search that includes public input.
Sheriff Bill Gore said he’d never seen anyone in law enforcement work harder or give more of himself than Lansdowne.
“I believe Chief Lansdowne has positioned the San Diego Police Department — one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country — in a good place, by requesting an outside audit,” Gore said. “This will ensure the public’s confidence in the fine men and women who work so hard to keep San Diego safe.”
Brian Marvel, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, praised Lansdowne as a leader who proved to be “an invaluable asset” throughout his term as the city’s top cop.
“He was the right leader at a time when our department needed it,” Marvel said. “While serving as chief for over 10 years, he navigated our department through both challenges and triumphs. He served our community proudly, and the San Diego Police Officers Association is grateful for his service.”
Lansdowne called for the audit recently to review all aspects of police operations. The city Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal on Wednesday afternoon.
— City News Service