Justice News

Associate Attorney General Tony West Delivers Remarks Announcing COPS Office Assistance to the San Diego Police Department
United States
Monday, March 24, 2014

Thank you, [U.S. Attorney] Laura [Duffy], for that kind introduction and for all that you and your office does to serve San Diego.  I am pleased to join you this morning, as well as our colleague Ronald Davis, Director of the COPS Office, and our partners, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman. 

Let me also acknowledge someone who's not here this morning but who's request brought the Justice Department to San Diego:  Former Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, who I've known since he was my police chief back in San Jose, California; we thank him for his partnership over the years.

As someone who has been privileged to work with law enforcement for most of my career -- first as a criminal federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Jose, then as an attorney in the California Attorney General's Office, and now as the third-ranking official at the United States Justice Department -- there's one thing of which I'm absolutely certain:  the vast majority of law enforcement officers in San Diego and across this country perform their extremely difficult duties with integrity and in compliance with the law.  Theirs is not an easy task, and I extend my sincere appreciation to all who serve to keep our communities safer places to live, to work, and to play.

Here's something else I've learned, and all of us here this morning know this is true:  people have a right to trust that those law enforcement officers they rely on to keep them safe and respond in times of crisis will not abuse the critical public trust they enjoy.  The integrity of our justice system depends on that.  And when misconduct does occur, it is our collective responsibility to act and to act swiftly to demand accountability and correct the situation.

Now, the recent allegations and proven instances of sexual misconduct by San Diego police officers are serious.  Not only have they created pain among the victims; these events sow distrust in anyone who has to think twice about seeking the assistance of or cooperating with a police officer.  And because of that, acts like this cast a shadow of doubt over all law-abiding officers, and they shake the community's faith in their police department.

That's why we are all gathered here this morning.  Under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. Department of Justice has used a variety of tools to respond when law enforcement misconduct is uncovered.  Those include everything from technical assistance provided by our Office of Justice Programs and our COPS Office to full-fledged enforcement actions by our Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney's Offices around the country, and everything in between.  Our responses to misconduct in law enforcement organizations can fall along a continuum of intervention, with the specific response calibrated to address the particular circumstances of any given situation.

And when we use these tools, we are most successful when we have willing and cooperative local partners like Mayor Faulconer, Chief Zimmerman, and former Chief Lansdowne who recognize that a problem within a police department is a problem for the whole community, because it's their trust we must earn everyday in the service we provide to and for them. 
So this morning I'm pleased to announce that the Justice Department’s COPS Office will conduct an assessment regarding police misconduct and provide technical assistance to the San Diego Police Department.  I will let Ron Davis, the Director of our COPS Office, explain in more detail what we intend to do, but briefly our aim is to help identify the cause of the problem and in so doing facilitate reform here in San Diego.  And we also hope that the lessons we learn here can be shared such that they can aid the entire law enforcement profession, much in the same way police organizations across the country have learned other valuable best practices from San Diego.

So let me again thank the Mayor and Chief for their willingness to take this step in promoting constitutional policing and helping the San Diego Police Department emerge as a national leader when it comes to preventing and responding to police misconduct. 

We look forward to that success, both for the City of San Diego and the law enforcement profession as a whole.  Thank you.

Updated September 17, 2014