As the City Council prepares to discuss the Police Department’s response to its largest scandal in the last decade, major questions about the spike in officer misconduct remain unanswered.

The council pledged to hold the public hearing with department leaders following a series of separate misconduct allegations against 11 San Diego police officers between October 2010 and May 2011. Five officers were charged criminally, with the most severe charges including on-duty rape and sexual assault.

No misconduct case has raised more unanswered questions than one involving Anthony Arevalos, a 17-year department veteran who prosecutors say solicited sexual bribes from or sexually assaulted seven women while patrolling downtown San Diego for drunk drivers in the last three years. He is awaiting trial and faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

I’ve written extensively about the Arevalos case. It stands out compared to other cases because he is accused of numerous on-duty crimes over an extended period. Most other accusations involved off-duty conduct and isolated incidents.

The scope and severity of the accusations also raises the most acute concerns about the department’s ability to monitor its own officers, who wield a tremendous amount of power and discretion in the community. Marti Emerald, chairwoman of the council’s public safety committee, has questioned how an officer could repeatedly act as prosecutors say Arevalos did without anyone in the department knowing.

So far, police and prosecutors have refused to answer numerous questions about the Arevalos case, saying it’s still under investigation. These are six of the biggest unanswered questions:

A year before Arevalos was arrested, a woman complained to police that the officer had sexually assaulted her in the back of a squad car. What were the results of the police investigation following the February 2010 complaint?

Police say the complaint was investigated thoroughly, but refuse to say more. As I’ve previously reported, police recommended charges to prosecutors but then sent Arevalos back to patrol when prosecutors decided not to pursue the charges in court.

At least five women say they were solicited for sexual favors or sexually assaulted by Arevalos after investigators dismissed the 2010 complaint. One woman not involved in the ongoing criminal case has filed a $5.5 million claim against the city.

Following the complaint’s investigation, what charges did police recommend to prosecutors and why did the District Attorney’s Office dismiss them?

Subscribe to the Morning Report.

Police refuse to say which charges they recommended to prosecutors, though Lansdowne told the Union-Tribune in July that he didn’t think Arevalos had committed a crime.

Department officials also argue that even thought they sent the charges to prosecutors, they were just following internal protocols and it doesn’t signal a belief that the case had merit.

Prosecutors have only said there wasn’t enough evidence in the case to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They’ve refused to explain why they came to that conclusion.

In the wake of more recent allegations, police have reopened their investigation of the woman’s 2010 complaint against Arevalos. Did the District Attorney’s Office make a mistake by not filing charges?

Prosecutors and police haven’t answered this. In June, DA spokesman Steve Walker said, “We don’t comment on pending cases because we don’t want to jeopardize the defendant’s constitutional right to due process and a fair trial. It’s our ethical duty not to try cases in the media or in the public.”

Court documents filed by investigators cite an anonymous source who said it was widely known in the department that Arevalos repeatedly violated internal policies. Does the Police Department agree with that assessment?

Police have declined to comment on the allegation investigators made against Arevalos and refused to provide copies of Arevalos’ emails we sought to assess how he interacted with other officers and his supervisors.

Police records show that Arevalos arrested women on drunk-driving charges more often than his peers. Did police recognize this trend or address it in any way while Arevalos was employed by the department?

As I reported in June, Arevalos’ arrests could’ve been a red flag. Among 55 police officers who made 20 or more drunken driving arrests in a 20-month period before his termination, I found that Arevalos arrested the highest proportion of women. The average officer arrested three men for every one woman. Arevalos arrested an almost equal number of men and women. Police refused to respond to my analysis of his arrests.

In some cases, prosecutors say Arevalos spent hours by himself with drivers but then didn’t make an arrest. Did his immediate supervisors recognize this or consider it a problem?

Police have refused to comment on their supervision of Arevalos. But they identified internal oversight as a problem meriting immediate attention following the misconduct scandal. After years of budget tightening, numerous oversight mechanisms had become stretched or been cut entirely. As part of his response, Lansdowne expanded the unit tasked with internal investigations, promoted more officers to supervisorial roles and required more ethics training from the force.

I’ll be at the hearing Wednesday, which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in the council committee room at City Council. If you can’t attend, you can watch the meeting through CityTV’s online feed.

The meeting agenda includes a brief report from the Police Department about Lansdowne’s seven initiatives in response to the misconduct scandal, but the discussion could drift to other subjects. Are there any other questions you’d like answered? Send me an email or tweet or share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.