Law enforcement K9 unit. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. Justice Department probe into officer misconduct at the San Diego Police Department found gaps in policies on officer misconduct, a lack of consistent supervision and a failure to hold employees accountable.

Ron Davis, director of the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, said the latter problem allowed officer misconduct to occur and go undetected for years.

Davis said the investigation focused on 17 cases of misconduct.

“On one hand, we found that the 17 cases were not linked to any particular behavior or one item, but we did find some areas that are definitely in need of improvement, or deficiencies,” Davis said at a news conference today to announce the findings.

“I think the thing that stood out for us was the failure of leadership on small issues,” Davis said. “Like anything else, failure on small issues leads to big issues.”

Davis, whose report includes 40 recommendations, and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said the SDPD has already implemented some corrective measures.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and SDPD Chiefs Shelley Zimmerman and her predecessor, William Lansdowne, asked for the probe about a year ago, following a series of arrests of officers for various violations.

Among them:

— Anthony Arevalos was convicted of demanding sexual favors from women stopped for suspected drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter;

— Christopher Hays pleaded guilty to groping and illegally detaining four women while on duty; and

— husband-and-wife officers Bryce and Jennifer Charpentier admitted to breaking into people’s homes to steal prescription painkillers to feed their drug habits.

Other officers were arrested for drunken driving, domestic assault and indecent exposure.

City leaders asked for the federal investigation and for recommendations to improve local policing and public safety efforts with the goal of restoring public confidence in the SDPD.

“This is a report that I welcome as mayor of the city of San Diego,” Faulconer said. “The good news for San Diegans is that this department is making significant progress on virtually every single one of these items.”

He said when he became mayor, it was critical to restore confidence in both the city government and its police department, the reputation of which was sullied by a small number of people.

All San Diegans are invited to look at the report, he said.

—City News Service

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