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This post has been updated.
San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne told U-T San Diego last weekend he wanted to hire an independent, outside auditor to review how the department handles officer sexual misconduct complaints.
That was news to San Diego Independent Auditor Eduardo Luna, the guy typically in charge of these sorts of things. He hadn’t heard of Lansdowne’s request until it hit the paper.
“As the city’s independent auditor, I welcome having a role in it if that’s what the City Council and the mayor desires,” Luna said.
The terms of the outside SDPD review will determine the worthiness of the entire exercise. Control over an audit’s scope, findings and follow-through matters significantly to its credibility and capacity to usher in change. Luna’s involvement could be one way to ensure its independence.
Lansdowne, however, appears to be moving in a different direction, though it’s one that has drawn praise elsewhere. Through a spokesman, Lansdowne said the city of Philadelphia’s invitation to the U.S. Department of Justice to review that city’s use of force policies is a model for the kind of examination Lansdowne would like here.
Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey’s decision to ask the DOJ for help was seen as a way to ward off a mandatory federal independent monitor for the department. Police accountability experts say independent monitors fix troubled departments, but also cost a lot of money. Ramsey believes the DOJ review will provide the same reform without the price tag. Philly.com, which hammered the department’s use of force last year, has called Ramsey’s decision a “shrewd move” because of the potential cost savings.
Still, details matter. The head of the DOJ review has said the feds will have final say over the Philadelphia review’s recommendations, and indicated the DOJ could formally intervene if the Philadelphia Police Department doesn’t follow through to its liking.
Here, it’s unclear whether the terms will be the same as Philadelphia’s. City Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick said no decision’s been made about the review’s formal scope or which department would administer the contract. Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer and City Councilman Scott Sherman, who serves on the Council’s Audit Committee, both support an audit. Lansdowne has estimated the review would take up to 18 months and cost as much as $200,000. City officials already gave Lansdowne permission to contact two consultants, including the same DOJ unit working with Philadelphia, about bidding on the contract.
Like Philadelphia’s chief, Lansdowne is suggesting the review instead of a mandatory independent monitor. But unlike Philadelphia police, SDPD has a formal request for a monitor. A police sexual misconduct victim is asking for one as part of her lawsuit against SDPD. At this point, Lansdowne’s desire for an external review has no bearing on what a federal judge decides in that case. Regardless, Lansdowne doesn’t want an independent monitor.
“I don’t believe we are at that level at all,” Lansdowne told the U-T.
Update: At a press conference Wednesday night, Lansdowne gave more details about the audit proposal. He said he was speaking to the DOJ Thursday and if the feds agreed to do it, they would also cover the costs. Lansdowne said no matter which consultant handled the review, the city’s independent auditor’s office would handle the contract. “They would be totally independent,” Lansdowne said.