Mayor-Elect Kevin Faulconer has chosen a new chief to lead the San Diego Police Department, in light of Chief William Lansdowne's retirement.
Flanked by other city leaders, including City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and councilmember Marti Emerald, as well as Lansdowne, the mayor-elect announced that SDPD Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman will serve as the new chief.
“The San Diego Police Department needs leadership now. Chief Zimmerman is a 31-year veteran, and she’s ready to lead," said Faulconer.
“As your mayor, my top priority is ensuring a healthy San Diego Police Department that services all of our neighborhoods every single day of the week. I believe there is no better choice to lead this department and to accomplish this goal than Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman. She understands clearly what will be acceptable in this department and what will not be,” he added.
“She knows how critically important it is that we recruit and retain the best and brightest officers to serve this great city of ours. Working together, all of us, we will support this department from the ground up,” said Faulconer.
The mayor-elect said his focus remains on "ensuring trust" of the SDPD and moving forward. He also said he and city leaders plan to have an outside national agency conduct a review of the SDPD.
When Zimmerman took the podium at Wednesday's briefing, she expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve as SDPD chief.
“I am absolutely, extremely grateful, extremely honored, extremely humbled and consider it an absolute privilege to wear this uniform and this badge for the San Diego Police Department and I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity,” said the new chief.
She went on to thank Lansdowne for his service, guidance and leadership.
“Chief, we are a better department and a better city because of all of your efforts,“ said Zimmerman, addressing Lansdowne who was standing near her.
“Chief, it was you who gave me the opportunity to work in a variety of assignments and in several leadership positions. And it was you that had prepared me well for today to become the next police chief of our great department,” Zimmerman added.
The new chief also hit on the recent scandals plaguing the police department.
“As a proud member of our department for 31 years I can tell you without question that 99.9 percent of our officers serve every single day with honor, distinction and professionalism, and for those few that make the absolute terrible decision to discredit this badge and dishonor our profession, I will not tolerate this,” said Zimmerman.
She said she fully supports the audit of the department.
Lansdowne also took a moment to say a few words at the press briefing, congratulating Zimmerman on her new job.
“I know in my heart [Faulconer] picked the right person to lead the City of San Diego forward. Shelley Zimmermann is now going to have the privilege and honor to be the chief of the City of San Diego. It is a privilege and honor that is bestowed on few people during the history of this organization but she has the compassion, the integrity and the courage to do that,” he said.
San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith took a moment to speak at Wednesday's briefing as well, discussing the independent audit of the SDPD that is forthcoming.
“[Chief Lansdowne], you’ve left us with two ideas for improvement and reform that we, as a city, are committed to following up on and making happen. One of them has to do with the independent review. The independent review must be thorough and independent. What I mean by thorough is no rock unturned. What I mean by independent is that it’s conducted by outsiders, those outside the city that will determine the scope and report,” Goldsmith explained.
Goldsmith also talked about a proposal being passed to the San Diego City Council to add $2 million to the SDPD's budget to fund individual uniform cameras for every police officer in the department.
On Tuesday, Lansdowne announced his retirement from the department, effective Mar. 3, 2014.
On Wednesday morning, prior to the Faulconer press conference, Lansdowne spoke in-depth with NBC 7 about his decision to leave his job.
“It was a very difficult decision for me. I did have some long discussions with the mayor and he left it up to me and me alone. He was very gracious. He has a vision for the city. And, my decision is that right now, it’s time for me to go and let the mayor move forward with someone that has the vision for a new day," he told NBC 7.
"I think I’m a lightning rod right now for negative press and that’s not good for the city -- it’s certainly not good for the police department. So, I’m stepping down and retiring. Not resigning, I’m retiring," Lansdowne continued.
The chief’s departure comes on the heels of recent sex scandals allegedly involving two separate SDPD officers, both accused of sexual misconduct on the job.
Former Officer Christopher Hays, 30 – who’s no longer employed with the department, effective Feb. 19, 2014 – is accused of giving several women improper pat downs on the job and getting sexual gratification from the alleged acts.
On Feb. 18, Hays was formally charged with two felony counts of false imprisonment with violence and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery involving four women. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintains his innocence.
Meanwhile, 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. Lansdowne announced this second scandal involving this second officer on Feb. 19. Moncrief has not been formally charged, and the investigation into his case is ongoing.
As a result of these recent cases, Lansdowne had said he wanted an outside audit into the police department to review how the SDPD handles misconduct among officers.
Another cop scandal that plagued the SDPD while Lansdowne was chief was that of former police officer Anthony Arevalos, who’s currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for various sex crimes.
On Tuesday, a judge threw out two of the convictions involving one of the victims and an encounter with Arevalos in a convenience store bathroom.
The timing of Lansdowne's retirement has surprised some, as the top cop recently said he wanted to see the SDPD through these latest scandals.