The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an independent audit of the San Diego Police Department after allegations of sexual misconduct by uniformed officers.
The audit is expected to look at both the professional and personal aspects of the police department. It will examine the department's hiring process, the supervision of officers and the process in place to detect misconduct, as well as staffing levels, salaries and vehicle locator records.
Former San Diego Chief William Lansdowne had asked for an outside audit on the department after allegations surfaced of uniformed officers giving women improper pat downs and exposing themselves to women.
At a media briefing Monday, newly appointed Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman said she in full support of the audit.
“It takes years of hard work to build the trust of our community and in just seconds, that trust can start to erode away all those years of hard work,” Zimmerman said.
“(This is) a positive step forward in identifying issues and finding remedies for any shortcomings that may exist," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said at the briefing. "More importantly, it’s a positive step forward in rebuilding the crucial relationship of trust and of confidence between the officers of the San Diego Police Department and those they are sworn to serve."
According to Duffy, the Department of Justice's Community Oriented Police Services, or COPS, will perform the audit. The audit will focus on overall misconduct with an emphasis on sexual misconduct among on-duty officers.
“When misconduct does occur, it’s our collective responsibility to act swiftly and demand accountability and correct the situation,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.
Duffy said the San Diego Police Department volunteered to undergo the audit.
"I wanted to reassure residents and police officers that their assessment would be thorough, fair and independent," said COPS Director Ron Davis, adding that COPS representatives have already met with Zimmerman, Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office and other key stakeholders.
In deciding to come to San Diego, Davis said COPS looked at three primary factors: That lessons learned will benefit the entire law enforcement officer profession, the city and police leadership demonstrated a strong commitment to organizational reform and that the city and SDPD must embrace core principals and seek to become model.
The audit will be paid for with federal grant money at no cost to the city.
Christopher Hays, 30, was booked Feb. 9 on two felony counts of false imprisonment with violence and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery. Hours after his arraignment, he resigned from the department saying he was not guilty and felt betrayed by the department.
Officer Donald Moncrief, 39, is accused of touching a woman inappropriately during an arrest in the South Bay last year and allegedly exposing himself to the woman. Moncrief has not been formally charged.
Former police officer Anthony Arevalos is currently serving prison time for sexual battery and false imprisonment charges he committed while in uniform as a police officer patrolling the Gaslamp from 2009 to 2011.
“Unfortunately, over these last few years, some of our officers have made the terrible decision to discredit our badge and dishonor our noble profession," Chief Zimmerman said Monday. "Not only do I but our entire department feels terrible about this misconduct.”
“We are not going to tolerate this misconduct and betrayal of our badge and our profession,” she added.
Auditors will review three misconduct cases from the last three years.
The audit is expected to take six to eight months to complete, then COPS will release its findings to the public. COPS will also perform outreach activities to get community input and feedback, according to Davis.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney have also launched a separate criminal investigation into what City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said is "case specific, meaning it will focus on conduct rather than an assessment or process."
Goldsmith did not release any information about the specifics of the alleged criminal activity.
A civil lawsuit filed by Arevalos' victim claims the department did not do enough to control Arevalos and prevent the misconduct.
"Is this separate 'bad apples' that have caused a problem, or is this endemic to the San Diego police culture that allows this to occur?" asked Arevalos' criminal attorney Gretchen von Helms. "We don't know the answer to that yet."
Attorneys for Jane Doe, a top witness in the criminal case against Arevalos, released a statement after details of the audit were announced. They say recommendations from an audit are not enough and that they would prefer an outside monitor inside the police department.
Just over a week after formal charges were filed against Hays, Chief Lansdowne announced his retirement after 10 years as top cop. In an interview with NBC 7 on Feb. 17, Lansdowne said he wanted to stay on the job and see the department through the scandal.
Newly elected Mayor Kevin Faulconer vowed to make the troubles plaguing the SDPD his top priority.