By Doug Porter
San Diego’s Chief of Police is gone as of Monday, March 3rd. Retired. Resigned. Whatever.
Incoming Mayor Kevin Faulconer will be starting his term with a clean slate, able to downplay reports of police misconduct as the failures of prior administrations.
The systemic problems within the SDPD won’t be actually resolved by his resignation, but the perception that action has been taken will likely trump demands for actual reforms, or, God forbid, an actual independent monitor. Fortunately, there was another, less noticed, development yesterday that may derail hopes by local officials that these scandals will fade away.
The accolades for SDPD Chief Bill Lansdowne seemingly started even before the announcement of his “retirement” was made official. Everybody from Sheriff Bill Gore to spokesperson for the ACLU rushed out statements praising the chief’s tenure at the department.
Both the SDPD’s official press release on the retirement and Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer wanted the public to know that this decision was Chief Lansdownes’ alone. Although nobody had publicly called for his resignation amid the mounting scandals concerning the conduct of SDPD officers, the handwriting was on the wall.
From Voice of San Diego:
Faulconer and Lansdowne met and spoke at length recently but Faulconer did not ask for the resignation, he said. He also, though, did not give a full-throated statement of commitment to the chief when given the opportunity.
Via UT-San Diego:
“The decision to resign was the chief’s and the chief’s alone. I told him that I would support his decision,” Faulconer told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“It was not a decision that he came to lightly or easily. The chief loves this department.”
Faulconer, who will be sworn in Monday morning, had foreshadowed changes at the department when he spoke this week to the U-T San Diego editorial board.
The Really Bad News for the SDPD
Yesterday San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser vacated convictions of sexual battery and assault and battery by a peace office against SDPD Officer Anthony Arevalos. He will be re-sentenced on the remaining convictions, including five counts of bribery, an additional count of assault and battery by a peace officer, and several counts of false imprisonment. The District Attorney’s office announced they will appeal the decision, which was prompted by the police department’s failure to disclose important evidence in the case.
Meanwhile, the victim known as “Jane Doe” continues to press her legal claims against the City of San Diego. Although the City Attorney’s office has attempted to portray her in the news media as a gold digger, the bigger sticking point is her demand for an outside monitor to examine the inner workings of the SDPD.
Buried in the UT-San Diego story concerning the Superior Court judge’s ruling yesterday in the Arevalos case was this little gem, one that portends even greater future troubles for the SDPD:
U.S. District Judge Michael Anello has tentatively ruled that one of the major claims in the lawsuit — that there is a widespread practice of police condoning and covering up officer misconduct — can be put before a jury.
Veteran civil rights attorney Michael Marrinan said that ruling is important for the woman’s case. Such allegations are often made against government agencies in civil rights cases, and many times they are thrown out before trial because judges conclude there is not enough evidence to support the claim of a systemic problem, he said.
“It opens up the trial to explore the conduct of the police department, and not just the individual officers,” he said.
Given the City Attorney’s failed attempts to derail this legal case, which included a claim that the victim was actually bribing Officer Arevalos when he took her panties and the hiring of a private investigator to make a video report on her day-to-day activities (she kissed her boyfriend in public!), we can expect another furious effort to squash the US District Court’s tentative ruling. And probably an appeal, should the city lose.
Lansdowne as the Fall Guy
It doesn’t take a college degree (over even a second grade education) to look at the lengths City attorney Jan Goldsmith has gone to in his quest to suppress an outside look at the SDPD to figure out that there’s something going on the public might not like to hear.
Here’s my take, based on conversations with four separate sources over the past three years. Because the sources are unwilling to be named for fear of retribution, I’m going to leave out the names, dates and places, simply suggesting a scenario that should make for a better of understanding the systemic problems facing local law enforcement.
Say you’re an SDPD officer assigned to work on a relatively minor case involving white collar crime. You find evidence implicating a well known public figure, evidence that gets affirmed when another law enforcement agency enters the picture. A report is submitted to the appropriate prosecutor’s office and… nothing happens.
What kind of message do you think that lack of interest sends to rank and file cops? What kind of message do you think this sends to the hierarchy of the SDPD? If you picked “business as usual”, move on to the winner’s circle.
Again, this is fiction on my part, created for the purposes of giving readers a better understanding of the position any police chief would have found him(or her)self in at the SDPD. Given that Chief Lansdowne was universally praised (unless you happened to be an Occupy demonstrator) for his management by both friend and foe alike, doesn’t this begin to make sense?
It is my contention that the corruption in the local law enforcement scene goes beyond the police department up into the prosecutorial offices above them. This might explain why eighteen law enforcement officers groups in Southern California have endorsed a challenger facing a sitting District Attorney in San Diego.
Let’s all root for sexual assault victim Jane Doe’s case against the city. It might be our only chance of learning the truth.
FYI- A discussion about hiring an auditing firm (promoted by Lansdowne and not independent of SDPD control), scheduled for a City Council committee meeting today has been cancelled.
Working While Sick – “Sorry About Coughing on Your Food”
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), a Washington DC non-profit, has teamed up with the local folks at the Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI) to release a report demonstrating the need for reform when it comes to paid sick days for employees.
The study, utilizing data from the 2011 American Community Survey and the 2010–2011 National Health Interview Survey estimates earned sick days access in San Diego by sex, race and ethnicity, occupation, and industry.
They found that 44% of San Diego’s private sector employees lack access to a single earned sick day. More than half of San Diego’s Hispanic workers (55%) were deemed to lack access to earned sick days, compared with forty percent of both black and white workers.
From the IWPR press release:
Earned sick days are especially uncommon in jobs that require frequent contact with the public. More than 80 percent of employees working in food services and about half of employees in the accommodation industry lack access to earned sick days…
…Earned sick days allow workers to take needed time off without fear of being fired, and restore a work and family balance. Previous research shows that about half of all workers who are covered by earned sick days plans do not take any days off for illness or injury in a given year. When used, however, this earned time allows workers and their families to obtain health care more promptly, leading to improved health outcomes, speedier recoveries, and a more productive workforce.
I expect that, along with efforts to raise the minimum wage, earned sick days will be a recurring issue in the coming months. You kids may not remember this, but back in the days before creating a libertarian paradise became an national priority, we had these things called unions to handle these sorts of problems. [Morning snark]
You can download a copy of the report here.
Curiouser and Curiouser
I’ve been working on a report about Carla Keehn’s candidacy for a seat on the Superior Court of San Diego. I thought I’d have a story today, but more details keep emerging. For an earlier profile on Keehn, go here.
Taxi Drivers Continue to Organize, Need Your Help
Perhaps the biggest losers in this city following the demise of Bob Filner have been the largely immigrant cab drivers. Our local regulations insure that a semi-feudal workforce is working long hours for (often) low pay, no benefits and bosses who can punish or banish their “independent contractor” employees at will.
The Filner administration promised to work with the United Taxi Workers of San Diego to find solutions to this ugly reality. Now they’ve been abandoned. Cab company “medallion owners” constitute a reliable source of contributions for candidates across the political spectrum.
iMayor Todd Gloria thinks their salvation lies in the fight for a higher minimum wage, even though they’re not (and unlikely to be) covered by local regulations. Now Councilwoman Marti Emerald is just about the only reliable advocate they have at City Hall. (She was once a cab driver and knows what it’s really like)
The present reality, wherein San Diegans pay the second highest fares (after Hawaii) in the nation for often sub-standard vehicles that are hard to find away from tourism locations, is being challenged by upstarts like Uber (backed by Google). And even the app dependent drivers for those start ups are increasingly turning their attention towards seeking basic protections for their livelihoods.
Today’s edition of the Verge features a story claiming that Uber deliberately kept drivers off the road in San Diego on Valentines Day in order to jack up prices. The company uses a pricing system based on algorithms allowing for a “surge” in pricing during peak hours. By reducing the number of drivers available they were able to increase regular fares by as much as seven times in some markets.
Here in San Diego the UTWSD is a multi-ethnic organization created in January 2010 following the taxi drivers’ strike of December 2009.
They’re seeking to to unify taxi workers around:
- Improving working conditions and the health of drivers through education, advocacy and empowerment
- Increasing civic participation and leadership roles of drivers and the community
- Creating professional and sustainable taxi transportation for our San Diego community and visitors
San Diego’s United Taxi Drivers are staging an online “rally” to “crowdfund” support for their advocacy and organizing efforts. They’re hoping to hire organizers from the community to continue outreach at taxi stands and in neighborhoods and they certainly deserve your support.
Visit here for more information.
On This Day: 1919 – The Grand Canyon was established as a National Park with an act by Congress. 1954 – A U.S. Congresswoman introduced a bill to prohibit the distribution of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy” recordings. 1987 – The Tower Commission rebuked President Reagan for failing to control his national security staff in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair.
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Will Falk says
Great article, Doug.
I think you are completely right to see through this resignation as nothing more than an attempt to placate the public. I think your analysis is spot on.
Thank you very much for having the courage to point all this out.
Let’s go, Jane Doe!
Don’t know about taxi rates in Hawaii but I’m sure that Las Vegas is higher than San Diego.
Doug Porter says
Base fee in Las Vegas is 3.30 + 1.63 per kilometer
Base fee in San Diego is 2.80 =1.80 per kilometer
Average fares collected in San Diego are higher because the city is more spread out.
john eisenhart says
Excellent point on the SDPD and the higher ups……The fact that no member of city council will direct their energy into the police department reform is disappointing. But expected…..
I love anytime you can mention the Taxi Drivers, they are truly some of the biggest losers in the political scandal that has rocked the city. I think its important to mention that this system was not created by accident. SDMTS, the San Diego Metro Transit System, has managed to squander the cities resources with respect to the permit, or “medallion,” and the Taxi Driver workforce as a resource. When I pressed MTS for information about how they had been managing Taxis, they claimed, in a California Public Records Act Request Response, that their sever had simply lost the emails and information I sought. This entity, MTS, has been fleecing the Taxi Drivers and the people of this city with its hands off taxi regulation for too long.