Photo by Sam Hodgson
San Diego Police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown faces a crush of cameras as she answers questions about the latest case of alleged officer misconduct.
A third San Diego police officer has been accused of off-duty drunken driving, police acknowledged Friday, but this time, the department is responding with a harsher punishment.
Police have released few details about the new case but say the unnamed officer involved, a 19-year veteran, has been placed on unpaid, administrative leave until an internal investigation is completed.
Since October, police have acknowledged that 10 officers are under criminal or internal investigation for various incidents. The new officer becomes the 11th overall and the third officer accused of drunken driving.
Responding to the two previous allegations of drunk driving, the department reassigned the officers to paid, administrative duties until internal investigations were completed.
The two previous officers had been arrested on charges of felony drunk driving. The new officer, although under active investigation for drunk driving, hasn’t been formally charged with a crime. It is unclear why the officer is on unpaid leave.
At a brief press conference, department spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown declined to answer requests for more information about the new case, saying it was a personnel matter. Does the officer have a record of previous infractions, one television reporter asked.
“That would all be of a personnel nature and we wouldn’t comment on that,” Brown said.
One notable difference, though: The new incident of alleged drunk driving happened four days after police Chief Bill Lansdowne publicly apologized for a recent spike in misconduct and promised to get the situation under control. After his speech, the department has been quicker to distance itself from accused officers.
The same day police arrested Daniel Dana on charges of raping a 34-year-old woman while on duty, the department announced that he was no longer employed. The arrest happened one day after Lansdowne’s speech.
Compare that response to the investigation of Anthony Arevalos, who’s been charged with sexually assaulting five women and faces 18 felonies. Police arrested Arevalos on March 11 and fired him April 14, nearly a month later.
Although no charges have been filed in the new drunken driving case, Brown said the case was “further discredit brought upon our badge” and asked for the public’s patience to work through the spike in misconduct.
When asked if the two most recent cases demonstrated that Lansdowne’s public message wasn’t resonating among officers, Brown objected.
“I would say that a lot of officers are taking the message to heart,” she said. “The vast majority of the department is upset by the actions of a couple.”
In response to the recent events, Lansdowne has said he would expand alcohol counseling resources available to his officers. That’s a shift from 2004, when he cut the position of a full-time drug and alcohol counselor and moved the responsibility to two part-time assignments.
Police and researchers have pointed to numerous factors behind the recent spike in officer problems, including more stress among officers, reduced supervision and the fewer resources for internal oversight. Shortly after he became the city’s police chief in 2003, for example, Lansdowne disbanded a unit aimed at proactively investigating serious or criminal misconduct among officers.
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