San Diego police officials: Another officer accused of misconduct, suspended

SAN DIEGO - San Diego Police Department Chief William Lansdowne announced Wednesday evening that another officer in his department was under investigation for possible sexual misconduct involving a woman in his custody.

The disclosure about the six-year San Diego police veteran, whose name was not released, came on a day when another San Diego Police Department officer facing criminal charges for allegedly groping and demanding sexual favors from female detainees resigned.

As of late afternoon, Christopher Hays, 30, "no longer works for the San Diego Police Department," SDPD public-affairs Lt. Kevin Mayer said.

Lansdowne disclosed the other investigation during a hastily called briefing at downtown police headquarters. The officer in question has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the case, Lansdowne said.

The alleged victim in the latest case came forward last Wednesday, initially contending that the officer who groped her and exposed himself to her following her arrest on suspicion of auto theft last year was Hays, the chief said. She later changed her identification following questioning by detectives.

Lansdowne said he was prevented by law from identifying the new suspect, because the officer has not been charged with a crime.

During the news conference, SDPD officials also announced a plan to require that two officers be present following the arrest of female suspects. The change, designed to preclude sexual improprieties by officers, should go into effect over the next several days, Mayer said.

"Ensuring confidence and trust in the San Diego Police Department is my top priority," San Diego mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer said in a statement released Wednesday evening. "San Diegans will see that this is the immediate focus of my administration when I take office."

Hays pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a pair of felony false imprisonment counts and three misdemeanor sexual battery allegations. He faces up to three years and eight months in prison if convicted.

Following Hays' arraignment, defense attorney Kerry Armstrong told reporters his client's decision to resign was by no means an indication that he had "done anything wrong." Armstrong said.

"He's extremely upset with the police department for not backing him in this case, and it's really hurt him," Armstrong said. "He's very upset about it, and he thinks that his career in law enforcement is over because of these allegations."

Hays, a former Marine and married father of two, served with the department for four years before being arrested 10 days ago. His father-in-law is SDPD Assistant Chief Mark Jones.

The charges against Hays, who is free on $130,000 bail, involve four women he allegedly victimized between October and December of last year, according to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Several of them claim that he groped them during searches, and one told investigators he forced her to perform a sex act in the back of his patrol car.

Three other women also have come forward and accused Hays of similar illegal acts. Those allegations remain under review, Dumanis said.

A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for April 22.

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