SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Police Department is filled with a culture of favoritism and nepotism, an active officer told Team 10.
"The nepotism exists from the command staff, to the lieutenant level, to the supervisor level," the source said. The officer agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity.
The source said there are some family connections in the department, but also said most connections are personal. "They have worked together, they drink together, they smoke together," the source said. "They're buddies, they're friends."
It's the first time an active officer has come forward to share thoughts on the alleged favoritism and nepotism in a police department rocked by scandals over several years, including the most recent charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment against Officer Chris Hays.
The officer said San Diego could have more corrupt police officers because of the culture the source described.
"If our next mayor does not take a strong stance and restructure, the probability of that happening is very high," the officer said.
The officer said, "The decision-makers are the ones that have this nepotism, this buddy system, the golden boy system ... that's where is starts."
The officer talked about specific cases where friends and colleagues covered for each other. One story involved a drunken driver.
"One of the detectives was under the influence of alcohol driving and hit an electrical box,” the source said. “The group of detectives and sergeants that covered it up are still there."
Team 10 asked the officer how this could happen.
"What they do is they let it sit. They let it sit for six months, the case goes cold, and nothing is done about it," the officer said.
The source was asked if an independent body would help keep more officers in line. "We cannot police ourselves. It’s impossible," the officer said. "It has to be an independent body. Otherwise the nepotism comes in and your investigation is totally tainted, contaminated and there's favoritism to it."
Team 10 asked police spokesman Lt. Kevin Mayer about the officer’s statements. He said the department is not trying to cover up anything. Mayer also questioned whether Team 10’s source had an ax to grind.
The source said they spoke to Team 10 because the public deserved to know the truth. The source described several situations they had witnessed or experienced which corroborate the claims of nepotism and favoritism.
"I have a lot of pride in what I do, and I decided to do this because I want this to improve and change," he said. "I think the public should know. We work for them."
The officer added, "People are afraid to talk about it because they are afraid of retaliation. They know their careers will be marked."
Police Chief William Lansdowne has resisted calls for independent monitoring of the department, yet he has also called for an independent audit to find flaws within the department.
Lansdowne also has deflected criticism of his leadership.
“I think we do an incredibly good job,” the chief said. “People want to play the blame game, and they want to criticize, but they don’t understand the system.”