San Diego police chief Bill Lansdowne faces a controversy threatening his department’s reputation, says the Voice of San Diego. Since October, the department has acknowledged at least 11 internal or criminal investigations against officers. The allegations include three cases of drunken driving as well as excessive force, domestic violence, sexual assault, on-duty rape, and other offenses. For Lansdowne, the trouble is familiar territory. He relishes the challenge of public scrutiny. It’s energized him and made him rethink his plan to retire next year. Lansdowne’s own decisions have contributed to the underpinnings of this one. Faced with budget pressures in the last eight years, his priorities have reshaped the department. He’s preserved patrol units but cut oversight mechanisms meant to monitor for officer misconduct.
Now the potential impacts of that shift are being felt. Still, the endearing reputation he’s cultivated and the continued drop in major crime have earned Lansdowne a great deal of confidence from his bosses. “He’s inspired trust through his performance. If there’s some problem that needs to be fixed internally, you can bet he’s going to be on it,” said Marti Emerald, chairwoman of the City Council’s public safety committee. At 67, Lansdowne’s work ethic continues to be a defining characteristic. Among city officials and police officers, it’s one of his most respected qualities. After waking up around 3 a.m., Lansdowne flips on his home computer to scan newspapers and law enforcement journals for the words “police chief.” He wants to know how other chiefs handle controversy and learn from their mistakes.