San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne is stepping down from his job as top cop.
This comes in the wake of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct in the department.
In a statement released Tuesday, SDPD said the chief's stepping down was his own decision.
San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne is announcing his retirement from the San Diego Police Department, effective Monday March 3, 2014. The Chief has served the citizens of San Diego for over 10 years and has successfully led the Department through countless critical events.
Although Mayor Elect Kevin Faulconer did not ask for the Police Chief to resign, Chief Lansdowne felt it was time to do so. The Chief absolutely supports the new Mayor and believes in his vision and direction for the City.
This was a difficult decision for Chief Lansdowne to make as he considers San Diego his home and truly values the citizens of this city and the employees who work here.
City Leaders React
Faulconer echoed the statement at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"The decision to resign was the chief's and the chief's alone," Faulconer said.
The mayor-elect thanked Lansdowne for his service and dedication to the department.
"Chief Lansdowne has had a stellar career of 50 years in law enforcement," he said.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said he talked to Lansdowne about his retirement before the news broke. Gore said the chief had mixed emotions about leaving.
“There’s a new mayor, a chance for new administration, for him to pick his own chief. Although I think the mayor has made it clear this was Bill’s decision, and I respect him when he says that,” Gore said. “Maybe Bill just decided it was time.”
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and the San Diego Police Officers Association also released statements showing appreciation for Chief Lansdowne’s service.
The chief's decision to step down came as a surprise to many. In an interview with NBC 7 on Feb. 17, Lansdowne said he wanted to stay on the job and see the department through the scandal.
“I would like to stay. I’m excited about this police department and everything they do, but I also understand it’s his (Faulconer’s) decision to make,” Lansdowne said.
At 69, Lansdowne has been leading the SDPD for 10 years. That’s longer than the three year average term of most big city police chiefs, he said.
Faulconer did not reveal plans to replace Lansdowne, except to say details would be released “in the very near future.”
Gloria suggested a nationwide search to find the next chief.
“I think you stick with what works. That’s what we did with Bill Lansdowne. He came to us after that extensive process, one where the community was really invited to come in and share their thoughts on what they’d like to see in a police chief,” Gloria said.
Former City Councilwoman Donna Frye agreed. Frye, who was first to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against former Mayor Bob Filner, told NBC 7 that she thinks change is good for SDPD.
"I hope they search for a replacement from outside the department," Frye said.
Before his resignation, Lansdowne proposed an outside audit to crack down on any misconduct inside the department. The local American Civil Liberties Union hopes the audit will still take place even without Lansdowne at the helm.
“Civil rights and civil liberties do not need to be sacrificed in the name of public safety. The San Diego Police Department will be more effective at keeping our city safe when the public knows that officers are held accountable and cannot act with impunity,” Executive Director Norma Chavez-Peterson said in a statement.
SDPD has been in the limelight in recent weeks due to ongoing investigations into sexual misconduct allegations involving two separate police officers.
Former Officer Christopher Hays, 30 – who’s no longer employed with the department, effective last week – is accused of giving several women improper pat downs on the job. Officer Donald Moncrief, 39, is accused of touching a woman inappropriately during an arrest in the South Bay last year and allegedly exposing himself to the woman. Moncrief has not been formally charged.
As a result of these recent cases, Lansdowne had called for an outside audit into the police department to review how the SDPD handles misconduct among officers.
Former police officer Anthony Arevalos is serving an eight-year prison sentence for multiple sex crimes. On Tuesday, a judge threw out two of the convictions involving one of the victims and a meeting with the then-uniformed officer in a convenience store bathroom.
Also on Tuesday, the department released information about a new arrest involving a police officer. Sixteen-year veteran of the force, Det. Karen Almos, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and has been placed on administrative duties.
Check back for updates on this developing story.