At the beginning of the year, it looked like the San Diego Police Department had weathered its storm of officer misconduct problems. One big case, though, hadn’t gone away.
Jane Doe, as she was known in court papers, was the final victim of former SDPD officer Anthony Arevalos. In 2011, Arevalos was convicted of soliciting sexual bribes from Doe and four other women. Doe was suing the city. Her allegations went beyond one rogue cop.
Doe argued the bigger problem was the Police Department’s culture, one that allowed misconduct, especially against women, to go unpunished. She wanted an outside monitor to oversee SDPD because she said the department couldn’t handle itself.
As Doe’s case got closer to trial, things started happening. Another officer was charged with sexual misconduct on the job, then another was suspended for the same thing. The city attorney accused her in a court filing of committing a crime and essentially asking for the attack. And evidence from her lawsuit revealed that SDPD brass ignored red flag after red flag about Arevalos’ behavior toward women for more than a decade. All of this fed Doe’s narrative of a department out of control.
The city was forced to react. Police Chief William Lansdowne was out, and his deputy Shelley Zimmerman was in. The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the department’s policies. Patrol officers now are wearing body cameras. The city attorney’s court filing sparked a separate conversation about victim blaming, and the city’s lawyers backed off its claim.
In September, Doe settled her case for almost $6 million. She didn’t get the outside monitor she was seeking, and the big debate about the Police Department has slowly turned from officer misconduct to officer pay.
But the city grappled seriously with officer behavior and the treatment of sexual misconduct victims because of her voice.
This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year. Check out the previous story, Ian Campbell: The Voice of Our Vulnerable Arts Scene and the next, Todd Gloria: The Voice for a Progressive San Diego.