San Diego Police Chief Steps Down

William Lansdowne, 69, has been Chief of Police for the last 10 years

San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne - who once was San Jose's top cop - is stepping down from his job as top cop in the the wake of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct in his department.

In a statement released Tuesday, SDPD said the chief's stepping down was his own decision. Landsdowne, who grew up in Oakland, used to be the police chief in San Jose from 1998 to 2003, before leaving for San Diego.

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.”

Jim Unland, president of San Jose's police union, told the Mercury News that  Lansdowne is a "class act" and said he doesn't believe the resignation is a direct result of the sex assault cases.

"It's a natural transition time for him to leave," Unland told the newspaper. "I don't put those cases at the chief's feet. If there's some type of endemic organizational misconduct, that's rightfully put there, but realistically it sounds like these cases are individuals' misconduct. I don't put this one on him."

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. He graduated from San Jose State University in 1973 and first started working for San Jose police in 1966.

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.

NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.

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