SDPD chief aims for transparency amid criticism

SAN DIEGO - San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman opened up the police academy Saturday, providing an unusual to local media in an attempt to make her department more transparent.

The media day comes amid mounting criticism of SDPD’s practices. Two claims have been filed against the department over allegations that officers unfairly harassed dancers during raids at Kearny Mesa night clubs in early March. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it will do an independent review of SDPD following reports of sexual misconduct and other wrongdoing.

“Our requirements are very stringent,” Zimmerman said. “It's not easy to become a San Diego police officer, and we have gotten it right thousands of times. But we have not gotten it right every single time.”

Former police officers such as Anthony Arevalos and Christopher Hays, both currently facing various sex assault charges, tarnished the department's image and reputation under the leadership of former Police Chief William Lansdowne, who retired in March.

“That's why we welcome the Department of Justice assessment… Because if they can show us a way to improve, show us a way for us not to hire somebody that's gonna make the terrible decision to discredit, dishonor our badge, our noble profession, we welcome that information,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said Saturday that body cameras are currently being tested. The cameras would possibly add an additional layer of transparency in an effort to restore the public's trust.

“Other police departments that have deployed and have their officers wearing body cameras, they have actually seen complaints go down more than 80 percent,” Zimmerman said.

Once the cameras are implemented, each recorded contact would be linked to a citation or incident number. Most recordings would be public record, with some exceptions.
          
The ACLU is working with the department to ensure officers do not feel intimidated or that they are constantly being watched.

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