SAN DIEGO - San Diego's beleaguered police chief - who has been in the hot seat amid scandals involving some of his officers - is stepping down from the force.
Team 10 Investigators were the first to break the news that Chief William Lansdowne was resigning. Sources told us that Lansdowne turned in his resignation around 1 p.m. Tuesday. 10News Reporter Allison Ash called the chief for comment but he said he had nothing to say and hung up.
The police department later issued the following statement:
"San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne is announcing his retirement from the San Diego Police Department, effective Monday March 3, 2014. The Chief has served the citizens of San Diego for over 10 years and has successfully led the Department through countless critical events."
"Although Mayor Elect Kevin Faulconer did not ask for the Police Chief to resign, Chief Lansdowne felt it was time to do so. The Chief absolutely supports the new Mayor and believes in his vision and direction for the City."
"This was a difficult decision for Chief Lansdowne to make as he considers San Diego his home and truly values the citizens of this city and the employees who work here."
Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer said during a brief news conference that Lansdowne's decision was his and his alone.
"It was not a decision that he came to lightly or easily," Faulconer said. "The chief loves this department. The chief has been a fantastic leader of this department and has served this city very, very well - day in and day out, through natural disasters. It's been my pleasure to work side-by-side with Chief Lansdowne since I've been on the council for eight years now."
Other Officials React to Lansdowne's Resignation
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria issued a statement acknowledging Lansdowne's leadership and length of service with the San Diego Police Department:
"William Lansdowne has served San Diego exceptionally well throughout his 10 years as our Chief of Police. His leadership led to our lowest crime rate since the 1960s, his hallmark calm demeanor helped get the San Diego Police Department and our City through challenging financial cutbacks, and he remains a respected national expert on public safety.
"I’m grateful for his tremendous contributions to San Diego and wish him well in retirement,” said Interim Mayor Todd Gloria. “It is my hope that a national search that includes significant community input will be performed to select the next police chief.
"The City Council and I stand ready to help the Mayor-Elect ensure the San Diego Police Department has stable leadership and continues to be America's Finest."
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis released the following statement:
"During a law enforcement career that spanned nearly five decades, Chief Lansdowne brought strong leadership to police departments in three California cities, serving with distinction and increasing public safety in those communities. He has been a trusted law enforcement partner in San Diego, someone who was never afraid to embrace transparency, recognize problems when they occur and take steps to correct them."
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore also released this statement:
"San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in law enforcement. He has led the department through one of the most difficult fiscal times in the city's history and enjoyed many years of reduced crime through his leadership and foresight.
In my 44 years in law enforcement, I have never been associated with anyone who worked harder or gave more of himself than Bill Lansdowne.
I believe Chief Lansdowne has positioned the San Diego Police Department – one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country – in a good place, by requesting an outside audit. This will ensure the public's confidence in the fine men and women who work so hard to keep San Diego safe.
Bill is not only a trusted colleague, but a good friend and partner. I wish him and his wife, Sharon every happiness they deserve."
The Back Story
Seven women have accused San Diego police officer Christopher Hays of sexually harassing or assaulting them while he was on duty. Hays has been charged with five criminal counts, including felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor sexual battery. He resigned from the police department last week.
Two years ago, the city was faced with another sex scandal involving former officer Anthony Arevalos, who is now serving prison time. In 2012, he was sentenced to almost nine years in prison for demanding sexual favors from women he pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter.
A woman also claims that back in 2002 a police supervisor sexually harassed her in front of a trainee. She said the incident happened during a traffic stop in the Gaslamp District and that she had been scared to tell her story for more than a decade.
Critics have called for the chief to step down but up until now, all indications were that he would not. He told 10News just last week that there will always be critics and that he planned to keep moving forward with efforts to regain the public's trust.
"I've survived over a long period of time because I believe that I have the heart to work through problems, the experience to get by them and a clear track record of success," he said on Feb. 17. "Sure, things are going to go wrong in this police department. I get that. But that's why you have Internal Affairs and that's why we're asking for an outside audit."
Search Begins for Replacement
Mayor Elect Kevin Faulconer told 10News an interim police chief could be announced in the next few days.
Sources tell 10News that Faulconer is close friends with Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman. In addition to Zimmerman, there are three assistant chiefs: Cesar Solis, Mark Jones and Walt Vasquez. Assistant Chief Boyd Long retired last year and is running security at Valley View Casino, but he is another possibility.
10News asked Gloria if Zimmerman would make the best choice, given all of the sexual misconduct accusations made by women against the department.
"Shelley Zimmerman is an incredible police officer," he said. "She's a great leader of the department. Ultimately, the decision of who should fill that role is that of the mayor-elect. At the end of the day, Shelley is more than a woman, she's a wonderful police officer and she should be judged on her experience as a police officer and not her gender."
Former city attorney Mike Aguirre says the new leader needs to bring stability and reform. Officer Hays, the son-in-law of Assistant Chief Jones, quit after being charged with sexual misconduct. Officer Donald Moncrief is also under investigation for allegedly exposing himself and Officer Karen Almos is facing DUI charges after being found passed out in her car this past weekend at Balboa Park.
"A lot of these things are getting a lot of publicity, but in the long run, those are not going to be the major issues that people are going to have to manage in order to have a good and safe department," Aguirre told 10News.
Aguirre also said gender should not play a role in hiring a replacement.
"I don't think that should even be a factor," he added. "Those are all serious issues but that shouldn't be a factor. She may very well be the best, but not for that reason."