9 Cases Still Haunting SDPD

9 Cases Still Haunting SDPD

Photo by Sam Hodgson

A San Diego Police Department officer pulls over a driver on University Avenue in City Heights.

San Diego police continue to face a number of criminal and civil cases alleging officer misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to illegal groping.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most prominent ones:

Civil Lawsuits

Current officers and a sexual misconduct victim are suing the department.

The officers argue they faced sexual harassment within the department in recent years. A victim of a former officer wants damages – and changes to how the department operates.

Carl Hershman Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Hershman is an SDPD officer who worked in the sex-crimes unit in 2009. He had posters of barely clothed women with jokes about them getting drugged hung on his cubicle. The posters were among the key evidence in sexual harassment complaints from two female officers who worked in the unit. The city settled those lawsuits for $75,000.

Hershman countersued, alleging he was harassed and retaliated against during the city’s internal investigation. His case is still active. Among his arguments: He and a colleague had the posters up for years without complaint, and they were a teaching tool. Hershman also hired a private investigator to show that one of the female officers was skipping out on the job. He said he presented his evidence to then-Chief William Lansdowne, who Hershman claims didn’t do anything.

The city, meantime, says in a court filing that Hershman’s posters were grossly inappropriate:

Hershman’s racy posters were taken down because other officers complained about them. Although Hershman claims they were used as training tools in the private, for-profit business he conducted off site during his vacation time, he never explains why he needed to hang them up in his cubicle. In fact he confirms that he was permitted to keep them up as long as no one complained. The Court will see the posters for what they are, insulting and demeaning to women: they condone child molestation, they made light of drugging women so they can be raped, they encourage victim blame by referring to women as “trailer trash” or mock females subjected to horrible sex crimes with comments addressed to the victims like “Your stupidity is our livelihood … SDPD Sex Crimes Unit.”

A trial was scheduled to hear Hershman’s claims this week, but it has been moved to mid-August, according to the city attorney’s office.

Jane Doe Sexual Assault Lawsuit

This lawsuit could result in the biggest payout and massive changes to departmental operations.

It was filed by the final victim of ex-cop Anthony Arevalos, who was convicted of soliciting sexual bribes from multiple women over years. Doe’s lawyers have successfully argued that a jury should hear her claim that the department systemically covers up officer misconduct. They want a federal monitor to oversee the department.

A trial is scheduled for August. But SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman is arguing that a jury trial on the department’s culture would be too burdensome and unnecessary given some of the reforms she’s implemented. The city wants a hearing on that issue before the trial.

Dana Hoover Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

SDPD officer Dana Hoover alleges her colleagues and supervisors sexually harassed and retaliated against her beginning last February when she worked in the homicide division. Hoover, who has since been transferred to a different assignment within the department, filed a lawsuit earlier this month. Hoover also said the department operates under a “good old boy network.”

Criminal Cases

These cases involve SDPD officers being criminally investigated for violence against women. The cases could later lead to civil lawsuits, and in the case of Arevalos there have already been plenty.

Gilbert Lorenzo Domestic Violence Arrests

Twice in recent weeks, officer Gilbert Lorenzo was arrested on allegations of felony domestic violence. But on Monday, the district attorney declined to file charges against him.

When Lorenzo was first arrested, Zimmerman stripped his police powers and suspended him without pay – a move that raised questions about whether she was violating Lorenzo’s rights. An SDPD spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Lorenzo or any of the other officers facing legal issues. But after prosecutors declined to file charges against Lorenzo, the spokesman told NBC 7  Lorenzo’s status in the department was a private personnel issue.

Donald Moncrief Criminal Investigation

In late February, the department announced an officer was under investigation for allegedly touching a woman he was arresting and exposing himself to her. The officer, later identified as Donald Moncrief, was suspended with pay.

A district attorney spokesman said SDPD’s investigation is continuing and hasn’t been turned over to prosecutors for review.

Christopher Hays Sexual Misconduct Trial

Former officer Christopher Hays is accused of groping and illegally detaining four women while on duty. He resigned the day he was charged in February. A trial in the case is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Arevalos Criminal Case

In 2011, Arevalos was convicted on multiple charges related to sexual misconduct, including sexually assaulting Doe. But in February, a judge threw out the sexual battery conviction because an SDPD detective failed to turn over critical notes that could have pointed to Arevalos’ innocence. Prosecutors are appealing the decision.

Federal Departmental Intervention

Beyond a request from Doe’s lawyers for a formal federal overseer, federal criminal and civil officials are already taking a hard look at SDPD.

Criminal Investigation of the Department

City lawyers announced in March that federal criminal investigators are examining the spate of departmental misconduct cases and other issues. Not much else is known about the probe.

Review of the Department

SDPD officials asked the federal Justice Department to examine the department in the wake of all the misconduct concerns. A nonprofit police research organization is conducting the review and held a community meeting earlier this month in City Heights.

A final report is expected by November.

Catherine Green contributed reporting.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Gilbert Lorenzo.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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1 comments
Bill Farrar
Bill Farrar subscriber

It seems that every week or so you feel the need to re-hash existing issues that have been reported many times. It's time to let them run their course.