By Liam Dillon.
A long-awaited federal review of the San Diego Police Department officer misconduct policies will be released in mid-March, a Justice Department official said Wednesday.
The review, which began almost a year ago, is focusing on SDPD’s policies for handling officer training and misconduct, which police experts and a federal court judge criticized last year for being too lax amid a spate of problem officer cases.
SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said she reviewed a draft copy of the report for the first time Tuesday night, but didn’t share any details.
“As soon as we go public with it, we’ll let you know,” Zimmerman said.
The review took much longer than expected. Federal officials originally estimated the report would be completed no later than last Thanksgiving, and late last year, an SDPD spokesman said it would be released in January.
“I would prefer to have them take as much time as they need to do a very thorough, independent analysis of our police department,” Zimmerman said.
The review is expected to examine whether the department has appropriate policies to deal with officer misconduct, but won’t take the department to task if it failed to hold its cops accountable. The distinction matters. In the case of the city’s most notorious ex-cop, Anthony Arevalos, the department failed to seriously punish him for years despite numerous red flags.
Still, a Justice Department spokesman said the review was a novel effort to work collaboratively with a police department to examine misconduct concerns. In previous cases, justice officials have done voluntary reviews of departments that are worried about police use-of-force issues.
“This review and report is very unique and the first of its kind for the law enforcement field,” Justice Department spokesman Silas Darden said.
The Justice Department, which is paying for the review, outsourced the review itself to the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit research arm of law enforcement agencies.
PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler praised former Chief William Lansdowne’s handling of officer misconduct issues within the department when they first arose in 2011 and has deep ties Lansdowne and another former chief, Jerry Sanders. PERF and SDPD officials have said the review will be thorough and independent.