SDPD chief: We're working hard to regain the public's trust

SAN DIEGO - With two sex scandals rocking the police department, raising questions of trust, will the city's police chief be asked to step down?

Only mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer knows the answer to that question and although the city's top cop, William M. Lansdowne, is calling for an independent audit of the department, he knows in the back of his mind that his future is in doubt.

"I have the utmost respect for Mayor Faulconer," Lansdowne said in an interview Monday. "He is the person in charge. He does control my destiny in the process and I support that. If he's not comfortable, I understand that very well. And I would not be unprofessional and say that it's unfair. It's a very fair system and he gets the right to pick his people."

And what about others who want the police chief to step down?

"I've had that criticism for 20 years as chief," Lansdowne said. "Every time there's a problem people want to play the blame game. I get that."

"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 added. "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."

In the meantime, Lansdowne is moving forward and trying to make strides to regain the public's trust. The independent audit is one of the moves he hopes will make a difference.

"I have talked to a lot of community members and they would like to see an outside agency come in and take a look at how we do business on a daily basis," Lansdowne said.

The chief is talking to two audit firms and will need the city council's final approval to make it happen. He has also increased supervisor training, updated a discipline manual and created an anonymous complaint hotline.

"My goal is to make sure the officers have the support to do the job that they do every day - make us the second safest city in America," he said. "And my job is to make sure they do it professionally. And we're working very, very hard to do that."

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 denies the claims and although he was arrested, he has not officially been charged.

We asked Lansdowne why he initially denied that the accusations against Hays were a big deal and he went on the defensive.

"I never denied that it was a big deal," he said. "And I take some offense when people just throw those accusations out there. We investigated it as a criminal offense. It was serious. We started with five victims and now we're at seven. It was a criminal case from the onset."

And Lansdowne knows there is a possibility that more women may come forward.

"We've got the photographs out there, we've reached out, we've gone through all the cases that we could find but who knows what else is out there? I don't know," he said.

A 10News/U-T San Diego poll asked respondents how they would rate the way Lansdowne handled the situation.

29 percent said fair, 27 percent said good, 19 percent said poor, 13 percent said excellent and 12 percent said they were not sure.

The poll also asked respondents based on what they know, should Lansdowne remain in office?

48 percent said he should remain in office. 24 percent said he should step down and 27 percent they were not sure.

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.

10News reporter Allison Ash contributed to this report.

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