March 18, 2015 / 12:40 AM / 4 years ago

U.S. review of San Diego police misconduct finds lax supervision

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A U.S. Department of Justice review of the San Diego Police Department has recommended the department overhaul its supervision practices following misconduct in which officers took advantage of women sexually, officials said on Tuesday.

The San Diego police chief welcomed the findings from the Department of Justice report, which had been requested by the former head of the city’s police department.

The most high-profile case of misconduct that led to the federal review involved former officer Anthony Arevalos, who in 2012 pleaded guilty to sexual battery and other charges for demanding sexual favors from several women he stopped on duty.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison, and the city eventually paid nearly $6 million to settle a lawsuit over Arevalos’ misconduct against one woman. Other lawsuits are pending based on his misconduct.

In another case, an officer in 2014 pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor counts of assault and battery under color of authority for inappropriate behavior toward women he encountered on duty and he was sentenced to one year in jail.

In all, the federal report identified 17 cases of officer misconduct between 2009 and 2014, including eight sexual misconduct cases.

It found a lack of proper supervision of officers, saying that too often officers worked under multiple supervisors in a week, which could result in inadequate oversight.

In addition to rectifying the supervision issue, the report said, the department should also improve its handling of complaints by employing a system that automatically notifies supervisors if any officer they oversee has been flagged for suspected misconduct.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman told a news conference that many of those new procedures were already in place at her department or in the process of implementation.

“Community trust is a precious but perishable commodity that must be nurtured,” Zimmerman said. “Otherwise, the hard work of building that trust can be eaten away in a few seconds.”

Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Walsh

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